Perimenopausal conception

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2003 Nov;997:93-104. doi: 10.1196/annals.1290.011.


Fertility, defined as the ability to achieve a pregnancy, declines gradually over the woman's lifespan. Although this decline seems to begin from the age of 30 years, it is more obvious between 35 and 40 and increases dramatically thereafter. The age of 41 is considered to be the point when fertility stops and sterility starts. The actual menopause occurs approximately 10 years after the substantial loss of conception potential. Thus, the biological rather than the chronological age of the woman can predict more accurately her fertility potential. This decline in female reproductive potential correlates with ovarian factors, although a slight contribution from the uterus itself and from the neuroendocrine axis cannot be excluded. The ovarian reserve decreases with advancing age, while a parallel decrease in the quality of the oocytes is present, as indicated by the increased incidence of oocyte aneuploidy. The endocrine function of the ovary also declines with age, the later becoming unable to sustain its normal function in the neuroendocrine axis. Additionally, the role of the various endometrial factors remains controversial. On the other hand, exposure to toxic factors and the increased prevalence of infertility-related diseases like endometriosis and PID, may also contribute. Spontaneous conception rates are minimal in perimenopausal women, mainly due to a qualitative and quantitative loss of female gametes. In the rare case of spontaneous conception achievement, complications are more likely. The application of classic ovulation induction and IVF may serve some selected cases, where the woman's ovarian biological age does not correspond to her chronological one. However, the implantation, clinical pregnancy, and live birth rates in women of advanced age undergoing IVF treatment, show very poor results. On the other hand, preimplantation genetic diagnosis is an accurate diagnostic tool for exclusion of genetically deficient embryos prior to embryo transfer. Oocyte donation seems to be the most reliable option of the perimenopausal woman, since the cumulative birth rates after four treatment cycles is approximately 80%. Cryopreservation of ovarian tissue may be an alternative in nulliparas women <40 years of age who want to have children in the future or women with the same desire who, unfortunately, have had pelvic radiotherapy, chemotherapy, oophorectomy, or premature menopause. This technique has given encouraging results in animals, but has not achieved pregnancies in humans. In the future, the use of drugs to block oocyte depletion as well as recent techniques, such as cytoplasmic or germinal vesicle transfer, will be more widely tested and may offer an option to the perimenopausal woman who wishes to conceive.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Climacteric / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology
  • Fertility Agents, Female / therapeutic use
  • Fertilization / drug effects*
  • Fertilization / physiology*
  • Fertilization in Vitro
  • Greece
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infertility, Female / epidemiology*
  • Maternal Age
  • Middle Aged
  • Oocyte Donation
  • Pregnancy / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Pregnancy, High-Risk
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Fertility Agents, Female