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The quest to extend women’s fertility to 50

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In 2015, Cynthia Griner delivered a baby girl at the age of 48. Griner already had four sons, but in her early forties, she felt an overwhelming desire to try one last time to have a daughter. These days, Griner’s Instagram feed is splashed with pictures of her and her toddler wearing cute “mommy and me” outfits. To any woman nearing 50 still hoping to have a child, Griner’s story seems like a dream come true.

But what is less obvious from the pictures is that it took close to a decade–and lots of money on infertility treatments–for Griner to have the family she had always wanted. After going through a battery of tests and hormonal treatments, Griner learned that she did not have any viable eggs left. In consultation with a fertility specialist based in Jupiter, Florida, Griner decided she would be willing to conceive with the help of an egg donor. “This whole process put stress on my body, my marriage, my family,” Griner says. “But it was all worth it, because our family is now complete.”

Griner is fully aware that her baby is the product of many scientific interventions. But the bottom line is that it is currently impossible for women to have a baby with their own eggs when they are nearing menopause and their supply of healthy eggs has dwindled. “This is a universal reality,” says Dr. David Seifer, a fertility specialist at Yale Medical School. “Every woman on the planet has the challenge of the DNA within their eggs degrading over time, a process that accelerates from the time they are in they are in their mid-30s to menopause. Historically, it has been impossible to reverse.”

That might be about to change. There are several experimental techniques on the horizon designed to help prolong the viability of a woman’s eggs. One cutting-edge treatment involves rejuvenating a post-menopausal woman’s ovaries and uterus using the healing properties of blood, while another involves transferring the mitochondria or cytoplasm of a younger woman’s eggs into those of an older woman. Science may be catching up to society’s desire to prolong fertility.

An increasing number of women are spending their twenties throwing themselves into their education and career, which means they are starting families older than generations past. American women with a college degree or higher now have their first child at an average age of 30.3. In big, expensive cities, women are increasingly pushing motherhood until even later: In New York and San Francisco, the average age is 31 and 32, respectively.

However, it’s still not very common for women to have babies with their own eggs in their late 40s unless they froze their eggs when they were younger. Since egg freezing was........

© Fast Company