Having a baby past the age of 40 can have its benefits. You are likely to be wiser and more financially stable than many younger parents, and you can take pride in the fact that you’ve enjoyed your youth. However, there are challenges to becoming a mother past the age of 40 – including a lower chance of falling pregnant and greater risk of complications (including birth defects and miscarriages). This post explains more about pregnancy over 40.
Why is falling pregnant much harder after 40?
Women produce only a finite number of eggs. By the age of 40, most women have gone through the majority of their egg supply.
This makes it much harder for a partner to successfully fertilise an egg. In fact, there is only a 20% chance of falling pregnant naturally by the age of 40. This is reduced to below 5% by the age of 45.
Men do not experience the same problem of running out of sperm. However, sperm quality does decline with age. If your partner is over the age of 40, this could be something to also factor in.
What are the risks of having a baby at 40?
There is sadly a much greater risk of miscarriage once you reach your 40s. This is particularly the case for those with an unhealthy lifestyle.
During pregnancy, mothers in their 40s may experience a greater risk of health problems developing such as diabetes or high blood pressure. This could increase the risk of miscarriage further, or may increase the risk of complications during birth. It is important to stay wary of any unusual symptoms during pregnancy.
As for your baby, if you do conceive and carry them full term, there could be a greater risk of them being born with Down Syndrome and other chromosomal anomalies. There is also a higher chance of giving birth to twins or triplets. These are things that you can be tested for during pregnancy.
How can I reduce the risk of complications and fertility issues?
Women in their early 40s who are still very healthy are much less likely to experience complications and may conceive naturally more easily. You may find that by adopting a healthy diet and giving up bad habits like drinking and smoking, you increase the chance of yourself falling pregnant naturally.
Try to also eliminate as much stress from your life as possible. Chronic stress can affect your ability to conceive and increase the risk of miscarriages, so it is something that you should try to avoid.
When should I consider IVF?
Doctors recommend that couples under 40 try for a year before looking into fertility treatment. However, past the age of 40, you may be encouraged to explore fertility treatment options as soon as possible so that you do not run out of time.
IVF is one of the most common forms of treatment and involves fertilising the egg outside of the body using a partner’s sperm or donated sperm. If you have few eggs left or poor quality eggs, it’s also possible to use a donated egg. Multiple rounds of IVF are typically needed for it to be successful. You can learn all about the process of IVF here.
What if IVF doesn’t work?
There are other options beyond IVF such as fertility drugs, surgery, IUI, GIFT and ZIFT treatment and using a surrogate mother. These could also be worth exploring if you can afford any of them (IVF is so expensive that most couples cannot afford other treatment after).
Some couples run out of time or discover that they are infertile. In this situation, there may still be the option of adoption to consider. This could allow you to still experience raising a child even if you do not get to experience the pregnancy and the birth.