Background: The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of infertility and the use of infertility treatment among women aged 40-55 years.
Methods: Population-based postal questionnaire survey of UK women. Over 60,000 women randomly sampled from the 2001 electoral roll were sent a questionnaire, and those aged 55 years and under who had ever been pregnant or tried to achieve a pregnancy (n = 6584) were asked to provide a reproductive history.
Results: Overall, 2.4% of women aged 40-55 years had unresolved infertility with no pregnancies, and a further 1.9% had been pregnant but not achieved a live birth. The prevalence of unresolved fertility did not differ among birth cohorts. Sixteen percent of women reported ever consulting a doctor because of infertility and 8% reported receiving treatment to conceive. Across the whole sample, 4.2% of women reported that they had achieved at least one pregnancy as a result of treatment. Compared with earlier birth cohorts, women born later were more likely to report consultations (18% versus 13%) and treatment (9% versus 6%) for infertility, and pregnancies as a result of infertility treatment (6.7% versus 2.7%). Among those who reported medical consultations, women born more recently first consulted at a later age compared with those born earlier.
Conclusions: Although both the number of women seeking medical care for infertility and the proportion reporting pregnancies as a result of infertility treatment has increased, there is no evidence to support an overall increase in unresolved infertility over the past 15 years. The vast majority of women aged 40-55 who reported difficulties conceiving did have a child, or children, at some point in their lives.