Over 40 and considering having kids? You aren’t alone.
We’ve all heard the statistics: after 35, your fertility levels and hormones begin to drop, leaving you a small chance of getting pregnant the later you wait. What those statistics don’t consider, however, is something unique to each woman: her biological clock.
You’re a busy woman—you’re in a stable job you love, you enjoy packing up for weekend road trips, and you haven’t been ready until now. Don’t let magazines (or your mother) pressure you into having children before you’re ready. While it’s true that your fertility levels do drop, there are plenty of women who have successfully had children after forty: Halle Berry, Celine Dion, and Salma Hayek just to name a few.
Let’s talk about the positives of waiting.
- You’re more mature. While younger mothers may quickly lose patience, you’re less likely to. Likewise, you’ve probably been reading baby books and experiencing other children to prepare yourself: overall, you’re more prepared to make parenting decisions than you would have been at 22. Part of this is also due to…
- You’re comfortable in your relationships. Whether this is work or professional, stable relationships are important. Your partner, if there is one, and you have likely been working on your relationship for a bit longer than younger couples. A strong relationship with your employer will also allow you to return to work easier than women who haven’t had their career as long. Studies back up the statistics on older mothers returning to work more quickly, even if it is part time.
- You’re financially stable. Instead of combining your student loan payments with crib purchases, you’ve had time to get your finances in order. Even if everything isn’t as perfect as you’d prefer, chances are you’re more financially stable than your younger counterparts who are already supporting children.
To be fair, there are negatives, as well.
- It isn’t going to be easy. While every biological clock is set differently, it’s still true that conception after 40 is difficult. This is due to your egg supply decreasing with age. However, you have a wide variety of options to choose from to assist pregnancy. We’ll talk more on those later.
- It can be complicated. Because your body is older, you do have a higher risk of pregnancy complications than younger mothers do. Developing high blood pressure, diabetes, as well as placental problems during a late pregnancy isn’t uncommon. However, frequent doctor’s visits and proper care will help you manage a pregnancy and reduce some of the risk.
- It can be expensive. While you’re projected to be more financially stable than younger mothers, those savings can be drained quickly. If your conception methods go beyond the traditional, it can become very expensive, which means you may be working long after you planned to retire.
Of course, these pros and cons are not universal: every woman and every pregnancy is entirely unique. If you’re unsure if you “missed the bus” on pregnancy or are concerned with the potential risks, talk to your doctor.
Now that you know both sides, let’s talk about conception.
- Traditional Conception: While this is everyone’s first choice, it isn’t always possible. In fact, about half of the women over 40 have fertility problems, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. If you’ve been trying without seeing results, you may consider asking your doctor for a fertility test. Even if you’re biological clock has ran out, you still have plenty of options for pregnancy.
- Freezing Eggs/IVF: Although it is still experimental, freezing your eggs at a younger age to be fertilized and used when you’re ready is an option. In-vitro fertilization, where the doctor fertilizes your eggs in a lab and then plants several in your uterus, does not guarantee a single baby. In some cases, all of the eggs may be unsuccessful, or you may end up with multiples.
- Donor Eggs: In this case, a woman (who you do get to meet and select) can donate some of her eggs to be fertilized and planted in your uterus. This has been met with large success rates; just ask a few of the older celebrity moms. This isn’t the same thing as a surrogate, who becomes fertilized with your partner’s sperm and goes through pregnancy for you. Think Tina Fey’s Baby Mama.
Just because the statistics say you shouldn’t wait to have a baby doesn’t mean that it’s the rule: when you’re ready to talk conception and footie pajamas, meet with your doctor. Every woman is unique, and her plan for pregnancy after 40 should be, too.