Over the past 20 years, the number of IVF cycles undertaken by women in their forties has increased massively - by more than 500 per cent – the largest increase of any age group.
The figures from the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority show that While in 1992 the over 40s had just 2,066 IVF treatments, by 2010 that number had leaped to 10,979.
Women over 40 are usually not entitled to IVF on the NHS so are turning to private clinics to help them have children
Doctors say the pursuit of a career is the most common reason given for the massive increase. However, they point out that IVF is no guarantee of being able to turn back the fertility clock.
Professor Richard Fleming, scientific director of the Glasgow Centre for Reproductive Medicine, said: ‘It is very clear that the decline in fertility starts much earlier than most adults seem to realise, around the age of 31. Women who delay having children are playing Russian roulette with their chance of having a baby.''
Just 12 per cent of women aged 40 to 42 who have IVF using their own eggs end up with a baby, and only 1.5 per cent of those aged 45 and above.
Professor Fleming continued: ‘Yet most people don’t release they are making that choice by delaying having children.’
Dr Simon Fishel, managing director of the CARE fertility clinics, suggested that women in their early 30s should consider freezing their eggs.
‘If you are a 32-year-old woman, are not in a relationship or don’t want to have children for another five years, freezing your eggs is a good option,’
Dr Fishel added: ‘Having a baby aged 39, using your own eggs from when you were 32, will make a huge difference to the chance of IVF being successful.’
It is estimated that 10 per cent of all children will be born through IVF in Europe by 2020. Seven per cent of Danish children are via IVF and nine per cent of Israeli babies. In the UK, the rate is less than 2 per cent.