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Getting Pregnant Past 40 Not As Easy as it Seems

Pregnancy after 40. Hollywood might make it seem easy, but in reality, there's nothing simple about having a baby past a certain age.
Trying to get pregnant after 40 can be downright impossible. To do it, many women seek the help of the doctors at the Women's Specialty and Fertility Clinic in Clovis. It's the only facility of its kind here in the valley and its changing lives for many local families.

Pregnancy after 40. Hollywood might make it seem like no big deal but in reality there's nothing simple about having a baby past a certain age.

At 43, Athena is trying to have her second child. Although it was anything but easy to have her son Rocco six years ago, it's been extremely challenging to get pregnant again.

"I had no idea id be on this road, I thought I'd be popping 'em out, 2 or 3 already," she said.

Instead of leaving things up to chance, Athena and her husband came here to the Women's Specialty and Fertility Clinic in Clovis. It's the only fertility facility of its kind from Bakersfield to Sacramento.

Doctor Carlos Sueldo built the practice from the ground up back in 1983. He says patients like Athena make up roughly 20 to 30 percent of his practice.

"They are a real challenge cause the peak of fertility in females you hit somewhere around age 24-25 so there are some really minor changes until about age 34, then after 35 we begin to see a much more pronounced decline in fertility," says Sueldo.

According to recent statistics:

-Infertility affects nearly 12 percent of reproductive-age women in the U.S.

-One in five now has her first child after age 35, an eight-fold increase compared with a generation ago.

-Birthrates for women ages 40 to 44 have hit their highest point since 1967.

But actually getting pregnant naturally in your 40's is pretty difficult according to Sueldo. By age 43 your chances drop to just about 2 percent, a surprising dose of reality for many women.

Says Sueldo, "They didn't think it was that low, they knew it was low, but they didn't think it was that low."

At that point, In Vitro Fertilization is the best chance for making the dream of a child a reality.

"I was so surprised and as you get older the quality of your eggs aren't getting any better either, chances for down syndrome increase. There's a lot of scares going on," says Athena.

Egg quality is a major factor in getting and staying pregnant says Dr. Sueldo.

For that very reason some women going through IVF choose to use donor eggs or their own eggs they had frozen earlier in life.

"Those eggs can be fertilized during a procedure we use everyday in the lab and the embyos are very successful in terms of implanting," says Sueldo.

Athena and her husband opted to do IVF with her own eggs. She says they'd done everything else and knew time wasn't on their side. "I'm 43, I can't wait anymore, you cant wait anymore, this is our last shot so we got a loan from the bank and did it."

The cost for IVF starts at roughly $9,000 and can skyrocket from there depending on how many times its done. Not including medications needed for the procedure.

The financial strain though sometimes pales in comparison to the emotional toll the process can take.

IVF is anything but quick and involves way more than just a few office visits. But all of it, the time, the money, the heartbreak, its all worth it when Athena thinks of another opportunity to raise a child.

And at the end of the day she says she wishes more people would talk about their struggles with infertility and in the process perhaps make this difficult journey a little bit easier. "Cause if you don't talk about it, you're gonna feel alone," says Athena.

Doctors say many times insurance doesn't cover the cost of infertility treatments. A handful of states, not including California, mandate fertility care but don't cover IVF, egg donation, or other pricier procedures.
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