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One of the most discussed topics among women planning to conceive is the perfect age to conceive. Having a baby later in life is the best choice if the woman deems it to be so. A woman should only have a child when she is mentally, physically and financially ready for it, and age should not be stopping you from following your plans.
With today's technology and medical science advancements, 'turning the ticking clock' is not unattainable. A woman can welcome motherhood any time she wants, provided she is healthy and is physically fit to carry her pregnancy.
According to the CDC, women having babies after 40 has increased since the 1970s, with the number of first-time births among women ages 40 to 44 more than doubling between 1990 and 2012 .
But it is also important to note that nature plays a big role here. Women get less fertile as they come close to their menopause, and any treatment to have a child and raise your fertility will come with a set of complications and risks .
It is important to know about these in case you are planning to postpone your pregnancy at 40 and beyond 40 years of age.
Pregnant At 40: What You Need To Know
Women are often told it is best to have children before 35, between their late 20s and early 30s. While it may be the best period, that does not mean that getting pregnant after 35 is a big no-no.
Reports show that birth rates have risen among women in their 30s and dropped among those in their 20s . A woman can have several reasons to wait to have children, and that is entirely her personal business and not for anyone else to dictate. Some women wait due to careers, responsibilities and some have to wait due to fertility treatments or other medical conditions , and whatever the reason, it is totally up to the woman.
How To Conceive At 40
If you are over 40 years old and you have been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby naturally for six months, the next best step is to consult a fertility specialist who will run tests to see if there are factors that are affecting your ability to get pregnant.
Some studies have shown that most women can't get pregnant naturally after age 45, in that case, the following measures can be adopted after discussing with a doctor:
- Assisted reproductive technology (ART) (removing eggs and fertilizing them in a lab before inserting them back into the uterus)
- Intrauterine insemination (IUI) or artificial insemination
- Fertility drugs
Benefits Of Getting Pregnant At 40
Some of the major benefits of waiting to become a mother are as follows :
- Financial stability and emotional growth
- Reduced cognitive decline
- Longer life span
- Better educational outcomes in children, such as higher test scores
- Fewer number eggs left to fertilize
- Unhealthy eggs
- Ovaries cannot release eggs properly
- Increased risk of miscarriage
- Higher chances of health conditions that can affect fertility
- Having a baby with a low birth weight
- Low-lying placenta or placenta praevia
- Placental abruption
If you are 35 or even older, there are chances that you might conceive twins. The hormonal changes occurring in your body at this age increase the possibility of multiple egg discharge at the time of ovulation, and women who use fertility drugs or IVF for conception are at a higher risk of twins or multiples.
Each month, the average 40-year-old woman has a 5 per cent chance of getting pregnant, compared to the 20 per cent chance for a 30-year-old. Getting pregnant after the age of 40 is definitely possible without fertility treatment, but it is more likely that you may have a harder time conceiving.
Risks Of Getting Pregnant At 40
Every pregnancy carries the risk of miscarriage, and once you reach the age of 40, the risk increases . However, technological advances in infertility, pregnancy and delivery can help reduce the risk.
The following reasons or risk factors can increase with age and cause fertility issues:
Also, your age may affect how well the placenta is able to develop, and this could cause other complications such as the following:
The rate of miscarriage rises with age, with 1 in 2 pregnancies in women over 45 ends in miscarriage .
Complications Of Getting Pregnant At 40
As you get older, both you and your baby have to deal with pregnancy-related risks and other health issues. The reason is that your reproductive system changes with your age, and you are more likely to experience age-related health issues.
Researchers say that about 1/3rd of women who are above 40 years of age deal with infertility. Moreover, the risk of gestational diabetes is 3-6 times greater. After 40, the weight you have gained will reduce your metabolism over the years, and it will be harder for you to recuperate after delivery .
1) High blood pressure (hypertension): If you get pregnant after 40, it may raise health problems that would have only emerged much later in life. One of these health problems is high blood pressure or hypertension. This is because weight gain during pregnancy will cause your blood pressure to increase, especially if you already have borderline hypertension .
2) Pre-eclampsia: Pre-eclampsia is a condition that is associated with pregnancy. This condition can be seen in women of any age, but the risk rises exponentially in women who become pregnant in their 40s.
3) Gestational diabetes: Gestational diabetes is a condition that develops when a woman is pregnant. The hormones of pregnancy make the body unresponsive to insulin. The risk of gestational diabetes skyrockets once the woman is older than 40 years of age, and the baby may end up having low blood sugar at birth. This may lead to problems like breathing troubles, brain damage and seizures in the baby after birth .
4) Placenta previa: Placenta previa is a condition where the placenta is implanted at the bottom of the cervix, and it covers the cervix. In such cases, the cervix and the uterus become scarred, and the placenta itself may be abnormal and needs a c-section to deliver the baby. This condition is too seen more in women above 40 .
5) Placental abruption: Placental abruption is when the placenta detaches from the uterine lining before birth. This causes a danger to the life of both the mother and the baby. The mother in most of these cases is past the age of 40 .
6) Multiple births: The chances of having a pregnancy with multiple babies increase after the age of 40. This is the case especially with women who undergo IVF treatments to become pregnant. Premature birth, fetal deaths and miscarriages are common in these cases .
7) Miscarriage: The chances of a pregnancy ending with a miscarriage are more when the mother is over 40.
8) Chromosomal defects in the baby: As mentioned earlier, older women tend to have weaker eggs. If these eggs do go on to have a viable pregnancy, the baby has an increased risk of developing chromosomal defects like Down syndrome .
9) Death of the mother: While it is rather unlikely to happen if the pregnant woman receives proper care and treatment, maternal death is a probability when it comes to having a baby after the age of 40.
In addition to the aforementioned complications, having a baby after 40 may seem tiring, and multiple children may lead to financial woes. If you are a woman who wants to get pregnant after the age of 40, ensure that you make healthy lifestyle changes by following a nutritious diet, regular exercise, consuming vitamins, etc. Someone who has been very active and has few daily aches and pains, in general, is more likely to have a fairly normal course with pregnancy-related physical symptoms.
You must also seek professional help and have yourself constantly monitored if you are pregnant. Doctors can also scan your womb or test your blood to try and detect if your baby has any abnormalities or let you know if you are at any possible risk.
Research shows that the overall rate for a woman is about 32 per cent and is 48 per cent for women over 40. Research also shows that the overall need for caesarean section increases with increasing maternal age.
How Does Age Affect Fertility?
Women are born with 1 million potential eggs, and this number gradually falls over the years. By age 37, you will have about 25,000 eggs left. By age 51, you will only have 1,000 eggs left - though it is a large number, the quality of your eggs also goes down as you age . Your chance of getting pregnant decreases as you get older, and they are as follows:
- 18 per cent at age 25
- 16 per cent at age 30
- 12 per cent at age 35
- 7 per cent at age 40
On A Final Note…
Having a baby at 40 is easier and more common compared to 10 or 15 years ago. Although getting pregnant at 40 or after has certain challenges, it is definitely a possibility.