“If we women started taking steps to become pregnant at the age of 40, 36% of us would be childless”
Valérie Vernaeve, who is aged 43 and has two daughters, is currently the director of EUGIN clinic. Her passion is helping women to have children and offer them the possibility of being mothers using assisted reproductive technologies. As she admits, this field is extremely exciting and subject to change due to its constant evolution. Valérie will help us clear up some of the doubts that often trouble us.
Is it difficult to become pregnant?
It’s not easy. Human beings are extremely complex. When a woman is young, the monthly probability of becoming pregnant is around 15% and over the age of 40, this percentage falls to 5%. If we women started taking steps to become pregnant at the age of 40, 36% of us would be childless.
Why do more women have difficulties when they decide to have a child?
There are several factors that play a part in this… They include problems in ovulation, problems in the Fallopian tubes or poor quality eggs, among many other minority factors.
Poor egg quality?
Yes, age has a great effect in this case. Eggs also age and over time, they suffer from more anomalies. To paint a clearer picture, women aged less than 35 have a 56% chance of having abnormal embryos, and over the age of 41, this percentage increases to 79%.
So this is an exhausting struggle against time for us…
Yes, there are two factors that have an important effect on our fertility: the number of eggs we have and their quality.
Are you saying that the number is also important?
Yes; the older we are, the fewer eggs we have. The number of eggs is defined from the day we are born. All women have a specific ovarian reserve from birth which is usually between one and two million. When puberty begins, we have 400,000 eggs left and at the age of 35 we only have 10% of these eggs and their quality is poorer than in adolescence.
In general, are we properly informed about our fertility?
Strangely enough, a recent study says that 75% of women are not aware that their fertility has decreased.
What would you say to a woman with problems of this type who has not told anyone about them?
I would suggest she consult a specialist as soon as possible, and not waste any more time. As we have seen, time is of the essence in these cases. I would tell her not to worry, that she is not the only one with these problems and that there are many other women in the same situation. And, most importantly, that she can solve the problem, as there are solutions.
During your professional career, what is the case that has affected you most?
I would say it was that of a young woman with very few eggs who was not interested in egg donation technology. We eventually came up with a treatment that enabled her to recovery her own egg and she became pregnant after the third attempt.