Over 40 and considering having kids? You aren’t alone.
You’ve probably read the statistics: After 35, your fertility levels and hormones begin to drop, leaving you a small chance of getting pregnant the longer you wait. What those statistics don’t consider, however, is something unique to each woman: your biological clock.
There could be many reasons you’ve decided to wait to get pregnant until later in life, and you should never feel pressured into having children before you’re ready. While it’s true your fertility levels drop when you turn 35, it’s still possible to get pregnant later in life, even after the age of 40. Ovarian function (meaning you still ovulate regularly) and general health are the main factors that will determine if you’re able to get pregnant after 40.
We’ll cover some of the pros and cons of waiting to get pregnant after the age of 40 and what options you have in becoming a mother.
Benefits of Waiting to Get Pregnant
Waiting to have children when you’re older does come with some benefits, including more established and financially capable of supporting the child’s many needs. Below are just a few of the benefits of getting pregnant at an older age.
You’re More Mature and Emotionally Prepared
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 in your early 20s. One study even suggests children are more likely to be better behaved, well socialized, and emotionally healthy thanks to the more relaxed parenting behaviors that accompany having children later in life.
You’re Comfortable in Your Relationships
Whether this is work or professional, stable relationships are important. You and your partner 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.
You’re Financially Stable
By the age of 40, 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. Older mothers are more likely to have finished their degree and established a career, meaning you’re most likely earning a higher salary that can help you better manage the expenses that come with having a child.
Risks of Getting Pregnant After 40
While every biological clock is different, conception after 40 is difficult due to your egg supply decreasing with age. In fact, by the age of 40, 90% of your eggs are chromosomally absorbed, making it increasingly harder to conceive via natural methods. In your early 40s, your uterine line also begins to thin — making it more difficult for eggs to implant — and your male partner may begin to suffer from decreased virility and fertility as well. Even so, you still have a variety of options to choose from to assist you in getting pregnant. We’ll talk more about those later.
Because your body is older, you do have a higher risk of pregnancy complications than younger mothers. You may develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and placental problems during a late pregnancy. Premature labor and the need for c-sections also become more common as you age.
For your baby, getting pregnant at an older age comes with an increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight, congenital birth defects, and stillbirth. Frequent doctor’s visits and proper care will help you manage pregnancy and reduce some of these risks. Your doctor may recommend extra testing and monitoring to help prevent and detect any issues.
The cost of getting pregnant over 40 can add up if your conception methods go beyond the traditional. While options such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), egg freezing, and egg donation can help you get pregnant, they come with a higher price tag that your insurance provider may not cover.
Of course, these pros and cons aren’t universal. Every woman and every pregnancy is entirely unique. Talk to your doctor about your options if you’re unsure if you “missed the bus” on pregnancy or are concerned with the potential risks.
Options for Getting Pregnant After 40
As we mentioned previously, it’s harder to get pregnant after the age of 35. But, it’s not impossible and you do have options.
While this is everyone’s first choice, it isn’t always possible. In fact, women over 40 only have a 5% chance of getting pregnant in a given month, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Consider asking your doctor for a fertility test if you’ve been trying without seeing results.
Since the onset of menopause generally occurs between ages 40 and 60, your cycle may begin to shorten, and the timing of your monthly ovulation can change. As a rule of thumb, you should have intercourse every other day around the time of ovulation, which can occur as early as day nine for women approaching menopause. A good indicator that you’re ovulating is an increased production of clear cervical mucus.
Although it’s still experimental, you can freeze your eggs (called oocyte cryopreservation) at a younger age and use them when you’re ready for children. However, the price tag is high and there isn’t much data on the success rates of implantation after freezing.
IVF, where the doctor fertilizes your eggs in a lab and then plants several in your uterus, is commonly recommended for older women who have unsuccessfully tried to conceive for more than a year. In some cases, all the implanted embryos may be unsuccessful following IVF. On the other hand, you may end up with multiples in about 20% of IVF cases.
Because your egg production decreases with age, you may not be a candidate for traditional conception and IVF if you don’t produce enough viable eggs on your own. In these cases, egg donation, where donated and fertilized eggs are planted in your uterus, has seen large success rates. You shouldn’t confuse this with a surrogate, who becomes fertilized with your partner’s sperm and goes through pregnancy for you.
Just because the statistics say you shouldn’t wait to have a baby, that doesn’t mean it’s the rule. Meet with your doctor when you’re ready to talk conception. Every woman is unique, and her plan for pregnancy after 40 should be, too.