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1.  Too old to have children? Lessons from natural fertility populations 
Human Reproduction (Oxford, England)  2014;29(6):1304-1312.
Is it possible to construct an age curve denoting the ages above which women are biologically too old to reproduce?
We constructed a curve based on the distribution of female age at last birth in natural fertility populations reflecting the ages above which women have become biologically too old to have children.
The median age at last birth (ALB) for females is ∼40–41 years of age across a range of natural fertility populations. This suggests that there is a fairly universal pattern of age-related fertility decline. However, little is known about the distribution of female ALB and in the present era of modern birth control, it is impossible to assess the age-specific distribution of ALB. Reliable information is lacking that could benefit couples who envisage delaying childbearing.
This study is a review of high-quality historical data sets of natural fertility populations in which the distributions of female age at last birth were analysed. The studies selected used a retrospective cohort design where women were followed as they age through their reproductive years.
Using a common set of eligibility criteria, large data files of natural fertility populations were prepared such that the analysis could be performed in parallel across all populations. Data on the ALB and confounding variables are presented as box and whisker plots denoting the 5th, 25th, 50th, 75th and 95th percentile distribution of the age at last birth for each population. The analysis includes the estimation of Kaplan–Meier curves for age at last birth of each population. The hazard curve for ALB was obtained by plotting the smoothed hazard curve of each population and taking the lowest hazard within a time period of at least 5 years. This lowest hazard curve was then transformed into a cumulative distribution function representing the composite curve of the end of biological fertility. This curve was based on the data from three of the six populations, having the lowest hazards of end of fertility.
We selected six natural fertility populations comprising 58 051 eligible women. While these populations represent different historical time periods, the distribution of the ages at last birth is remarkably similar. The curve denoting the end of fertility indicates that <3% of women had their last birth at age 20 years meaning that almost 98% were able to have at least one child thereafter. The cumulative curve for the end of fertility slowly increases from 4.5% at age 25 years, 7% at age 30 years, 12% at age 35 years and 20% at age 38 years. Thereafter, it rises rapidly to about 50% at age 41, almost 90% at age 45 years and approaching 100% at age 50 years.
It may be argued that these historical fertility data do not apply to the present time; however, the age-dependent decline in fertility is similar to current populations and is consistent with the pattern seen in women treated by donor insemination. Furthermore, for reproductive ageing, we note that it is unlikely that such a conserved biological process with a high degree of heritability would have changed significantly within a century or two.
We argue that the age-specific ALB curve can be used to counsel couples who envisage having children in the future. Our findings challenge the unsubstantiated pessimism regarding the possibility of natural conception after age 35 years.
No external funding was either sought or obtained for this study. There are no conflicts of interest to be declared.
PMCID: PMC4389129  PMID: 24676403
ovarian ageing; reproductive epidemiology; natural fertility; reproductive demography; delay of childbearing
2.  A Pilot Study of the ELFE Longitudinal Cohort: Feasibility and Preliminary Evaluation of Biological Collection 
Biopreservation and Biobanking  2011;9(3):223-227.
Etude Longitudinale Française depuis l'Enfance (ELFE) will be a national French cohort of 20,000 children followed from birth to adulthood. Biological samples will be taken at birth to evaluate the fetal exposition to several substances. A pilot study was carried out in October 2007 to test the preanalytical factors that affected sample quality. A variety of fractions were collected by the midwife after delivery from different blood collection tubes. Options in the collection process were 2 daily transports of samples, centralized and standardized processing methodology, and storage of multiple aliquots in liquid nitrogen or at −80°C. We analyzed preanalytical factors that could have affected coagulation and then soluble CD40 Ligand (sCD40L) as a quality control tool for serum quality. Cord blood and urine were collected from 82% and 84% of women, respectively, who agreed to be followed up in the ELFE project. The use of syringe was the main factor correlated with coagulation (relative risk: 2.79 [1.47; 5.31], P<0.01). Maternity unit status was also associated with coagulation (RR: 1.48 [1.03; 2.13] in a private maternity unit vs. a public maternity) as well as time between collection and centrifugation (RR 1.03 [1; 1.07] when time between collection and centrifugation increases from 1 h). There were no extremely low sCD40L values indicating extreme exposures to room temperatures. This first evaluation study allowed us to stress the importance of carefully recording all potentially critical preanalytical variables that might be used at a large-scale level.
PMCID: PMC3178416  PMID: 21977239
3.  Rationales, design and recruitment for the Elfe longitudinal study 
BMC Pediatrics  2009;9:58.
Many factors act simultaneously in childhood to influence health status, life chances and well being, including pre-birth influences, the environmental pollutants of early life, health status but also the social influences of family and school. A cohort study is needed to disentangle these influences and explore attribution.
Elfe will be a nationally representative cohort of 20 000 children followed from birth to adulthood using a multidisciplinary approach. The cohort will be based on the INSEE Permanent Demographic Panel (EDP) established using census data and civil records. The sample size has been defined in order to match the representativeness criteria and to obtain some prevalence estimation, but also to address the research area of low exposure/rare effects. The cohort will be based on repeated surveys by face to face or phone interview (at birth and each year) as well as medical interview (at 2 years) and examination (at 6 years). Furthermore, biological samples will be taken at birth to evaluate the foetal exposition to toxic substances, environmental sensors will be placed in the child's homes. Pilot studies have been initiated in 2007 (500 children) with an overall acceptance rate of 55% and are currently under progress, the 2-year survey being carried out in October this year.
The longitudinal study will provide a unique source of data to analyse the development of children in their environment, to study the various factors interacting throughout the life course up to adulthood and to determine the impact of childhood experience on the individual's physical, psychological, social and professional development.
PMCID: PMC2754449  PMID: 19772571

Results 1-3 (3)