Older women and failed IVF cycles


Susan had 2 failed IVF cycles before we helped her get pregnant naturally, aged 47. She gave birth 3 years after she first came to us, back when she was 45, with low AMH and high FSH. She had an FSH retest after a few months of treatment.

“My FSH result was 25 before. When I received the test result after a few months of treatment, I was so nervous that I was too frightened to look at first. When I did, I was so pleased. It is now 13.9!”

Subsequently, she went for a cycle of IVF with the clinic we work with. It was not successful, but she told us this.

“When the eggs were collected, the IVF clinic was surprised to find that all of my eggs are of excellent quality. They say this is very rare in a woman of my age.”

She then became busy with other life commitments, and came back to us for treatment later.

“It is very very early days but I have had a positive pregnancy test (over-the-counter tester kit). I’m about 6 weeks in. I don’t want to get too excited but I wanted to drop you a note to see about coming back to see you.”

Theresa, 39, first came to us after 1 failed cycle of IUI and 3 failed cycles of IVF, spanning 9 months. Her consultant told her donor eggs were her only option. She saw us 3 times, and on her fourth visit, she showed us 2 pregnancy test sticks that confirmed she was pregnant.

“I cannot believe this. How come the consultant said that I could not have my own child!”

Unfortunately, she had a miscarriage a few weeks later. She came back to us after a short rest, saw us 4 times, and got pregnant again.

Elizabeth Douglas, 41, had 4 cycles of failed IVF before she came to us. Her story was published in Real magazine in 2002. Call us for a copy of the article.

“We saw Professor Li at the TCM Healthcare fertility clinic. He asked me a lot of questions: what food I liked, whether I was hot or cold, and also looked at my tongue and took my pulse in both wrists. His diagnosis was that my chi (life energy) was completely out of alignment and that I was far too cold. He gave me a concoction of herbs to boil up and drink twice a day, which tasted revolting, but I persevered and kept going back for consultations. After about 6 months, he told me his treatment had finished and I simply had to be patient. Incredibly, in just 2 months, I was ringing him with the wonderful news that I was pregnant. It wasn’t a great pregnancy. I was sick and suffered bad indigestion but Matthew was born healthy last June. We’ll always be grateful to the IVF consultants, but without Chinese medicine, we may never have found the final piece in the puzzle, which allowed us to become parents at long last.”

The IVF approach

Many patients come to us with failed IVF attempts. They generally feel rather strained financially, as well as emotionally, by the experience. 

The conventional medical approach is to focus on the mechanics of getting a sperm into an egg to develop an embryo, and putting it back into the uterus in the hope the embryo will implant, without doing much to improve hormones, egg quality, sperm quality etc.

Many women who went through IVF told us that it is almost as if doctors are not interested in natural pregnancy. Some say that they are told that IVF is the only option with little investigation other than conducting an AMH test.

Modern research has shown that AMH test result while important for IVF, seems to have little to do with natural pregnancy. The New York Times did an investigative piece in 2017 and reached the same conclusion. Put simply, AMH score is a poor predictor of natural pregnancy success rate or length of time to get pregnant naturally.

Is age a problem?

For IVF, age may be very important

IVF success decreases with age. The percentages below show the average chance of a live birth from IVF treatment by a woman’s age in the UK. These figures represent women using their own eggs and their partner’s sperm utilising the per embryo transferred measure.

IVF success by age

Graph showing IVF success rates drop a lot after 35

IVF failure is generally attributed to weaknesses in the embryo that leads to failed implantation. Since much of embryo weakness and implant failure are largely attributed to poor egg quality (and egg quality tends to decline with age), the success of our treatment can be attributed to the fact we can improve AMH and egg quality, reduce FSH and restore hormonal imbalance especially in older women. Some of our patients have failed IVFs to an extent they were told donor eggs were the only option left. Nonetheless, they came to us and they managed to naturally conceive.

For natural pregnancy, age may be much less important

Statistically, we know that the success rate of IVF and natural pregnancy are the same after 43 for women. We also know that IVF success chances for women who are older than 46 using their own eggs are virtually non-existent. This is precisely the reason behind UK authority’s decision to not allow IVF clinics to take on women after aged 46 using their own eggs.

According to Dr Randine Lewis, the author of a well received book called The Infertility Cure, “women should be capable of pregnancy from the onset of menstruation until menopause”. She goes on to say, “rarely have I met a woman of childbearing age with all her reproductive organs intact who isn't capable of having children. As long as anatomical structures are present, a medical diagnosis of ‘infertility’ is often a fallacy. Many factors can cause a woman to have difficulty conceiving, but once these factors are overcome and a woman body is restored to health, conception can occur naturally.”

In addition, the latest scientific evidence developed by Stanford University in the USA has shown that one’s biological age is not always the same as one’s natural age. For a more detailed discussion on conceiving naturally, please click here.

We have one working principle: We firmly believe that the quality of your reproductive system can be improved. These improvements are likely to lead to more balanced hormones and in turn better egg quality. We apply this principle to our clinical practice and have helped many patients achieve live births after failed IVF attempts up to the age of 48.

Want to read more? You can go to our blog page.

How can we help?

Patients bring us their test results and medical record. These usually include AMH, FSH, LH, oestradiol and prolactin. We do a first consultation that takes between 30 and 40 minutes, in which we do non-invasive and pain-free Chinese medical diagnostic procedures, in order to understand your particular condition and circumstances thoroughly.

A microscope, drawn with Chinese calligraphy, TCM Healthcare — London fertility clinic

Our specialist prescribes a unique herbal formula, usually consisting of around 20 kinds of herbs, from which you will make drinks and consume twice a day for 18 days in a month. 

A month after the first consultation, you will be done with the first round of herbal remedy. We do a second consultation, lasting 30 minutes, doing another diagnostic procedure to see how well you’ve responded to the treatment. Another prescription will be written.

This monthly cycle will repeat 3 or 4 times before you are asked to have another AMH test carried out. Most patients see significant improvements. They then pursue a number of options, whether that’s working with us for a few more months to try to achieve pregnancy, or combining our treatment with another IVF cycle.

What are our fees?

The fees come to about £480 to £530 a month on average. Given our success rate, the fees of our treatment programme compares very favourably with IVF — all 3 courses (9 months) of our treatment comes out to be around £4,500 whereas the minimum all-inclusive fee for one IVF cycle stands at £6,000.

How often do I need to come? 

Once a month. Most patients come from 3 to 9 months. Some combine our treatment with further IVF cycles.

What to expect during a consultation

A traditional Chinese medical consultation involves the following steps.


The practitioner may scrutinise your complexion, eyes, tongue, and movements to gain insight into how your organs are functioning. The tongue is a particularly important source of information, and its colour, body, coating, and moisture will all be taken into account.


The practitioner assesses the patient’s energy and general condition by taking into account your body heat, odour, skin sensitivity, and uses other senses to gain an insight into the your condition.

Taking a history

To gain a full picture, the practitioner will ask detailed questions about your complaint and your medical history. They will want to find out whether your problems vary at all according to the time of year and your diet, feelings or emotions.

Pulse diagnosis

This can provide a highly sensitive and detailed picture of your general health. The practitioner will take a number of different ‘pulses’ using three fingers put on the wrist of each hand of the patient. This enables him to gain further information about the quality and functioning of the five major organs. The practitioner will take account of your general health and strength, as well as all of your symptoms, whether they seem to you to be connected or not. This will be the basis for deciding on the best treatment.


Monthly consultations are required to gauge your progress. The prescriptions will be devised accordingly — for treating a changing condition, a fixed single herb or formula is unlikely to be effective over time.

Patients want to know how long they need to see us for. We say after 3 months of treatment, we will review progress, retesting hormones and check subjective experience, such as period cycle regularity and sexual interest. If they are at normal levels, we discharge the patients.

If they are better but still need further improvement, patients may need second course of treatment at the same or less intensity.

Typically, women see us for 3 courses of treatment, ie 9 months total.

The point is that the way we treat patients means they should not rely on our treatment for too long. Their improved health and function should stay with them if they look after their health.

A second opinion service

We have just launched a second opinion service where you can send us your hormone test results, sperm test results and other results. Consultations will be done on the phone and it will not be a face-to-face medical consultation.

Since we work with IUI, IVF, ICSI, egg and sperm freezing specialists, we can explore a full range of options with you prior to your committing to a course of actions that may be best for you. There is no charge for this service.

We offer this service in good faith based on our clinical experience and our work with partner agencies such as IVF specialists. We do not accept any liability and we will urge you to triangulate opinions given with your own doctors before you decide what may be best for your circumstance.

Book an appointment!

Call us any time on 0207 096 0283 or fill out our enquiry form.

We would like to see the following test results (less than 2 months old):

If you have not done them yet, we can arrange them for you. Results come out in 1–3 days.

A booking fee of £100 (refunded when you attend) will be processed at booking. 

Late cancellation fee £50
We appreciate that you might not be well or have urgent matters to attend. As a result you may have to postpone the appointment. We would like to have at least 24 hours' advance notice. A late cancellation fee of £50 is payable if advance notice is not given.

Are there patients we cannot help?

Yes. No medical system is foolproof and medical practitioners, however good, are not omnipotent. As great as our success rates are, they are not 100%. There are times patients do not respond to our treatments despite our best efforts.

Delayed improvements are possible when patients rest a little. However, even with rest, patients may still not respond well. Fortunately, these cases are in the minority. We minimise the number of these cases by trying to understand our patients’ conditions as much as possible before taking them on. We minimise time and financial commitments from patients by insisting they have hormone or sperm test results prior to treatment, and to get retested after 3 months — following our evidence-based approach.

At TCM Healthcare, we will always have your best interests in mind and we will do our best.