Scientists have said women might be able to conceive at an age generally thought to be past child-bearing stage thanks to a new treatment that is expected to come up in the next decade or so.
Scientists have found a protein that they believe can be developed into a pill or an injection to extend the life of the eggs in the ovary. This could lead to a fertility revolution enabling women to wait longer to have a child, reported online edition of the Daily Mail.
A woman's fertility peaks between 20 and 24 years of age. However, fertility rates remain relatively constant through the early 30s, after which they begin to decline.
At age 30 to 35, fertility is 15 to 20 per cent below maximum. From age 35 to 39, the decrease is 25 to 50 per cent. From 40 to 45, the decrease is 50 to 95 per cent.
At the age of 16, a woman has 400,000 eggs but by the age of 46 there will be virtually none left, professor of fertility studies at Imperial College Robert Winston said.
Women lose around two eggs an hour. "In the time you've been listening to me speaking, every woman of child-bearing age in the audience will have lost two eggs," he said at a conference here.
"We either arrange for women to train, and rear or care for children at the same time, or science can help by extending the length of life of eggs in the ovaries. We might be able to do that in the next decade or so," he said.
Winston claimed that scientists including him have identified a protein, which might be used to prolong the life of women's eggs. "Women are much healthier than they were and the period before the menopause could be extended without risk," he said.
Winston, who is also the medical director of the London Fertility Centre, however did not give details on which proteins could be used or how far the research had progressed.