Not everyone decides to pursue parenthood in their 20s or 30s. Some may be focused on their careers or haven’t yet found the right partner to start a family with, and that’s okay! In fact, it has become increasingly more common for women to start “trying” later in life, with the average age of first-time mothers currently at 26, up from 21 in 1972.
While becoming pregnant after the age of 40 can pose significantly more risks, it’s still very possible to carry and deliver a healthy baby. Many celebrities like Eva Longoria, Janet Jackson, and Kenya Moore of the Real Housewives of Atlanta waited to become first-time mothers until they were in their 40s.
If you’re trying to conceive after 40, here’s everything you need to know about your odds of getting – and staying – pregnant with your own eggs.
Getting pregnant with your own eggs after 40
When it comes to female fertility, age is the main factor affecting one’s chances of becoming pregnant. Women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have, and as a women ages, egg count and quality continue to decline until menopause eventually occurs.
That said, with age natural conception becomes increasingly more difficult, and women over 40 may need to consider other fertility options to increase their chances of becoming pregnant. In fact, by age 45, it is relatively rare for a woman to become naturally pregnant without fertility treatments.
So, if you’re trying to conceive over 40, know that it may be challenging – although not impossible – for you to conceive with your own eggs. The first step should be to consult with a fertility specialist who can run diagnostic tests to determine the best option to increase your chances of conceiving and carrying a pregnancy.
What are the potential risks of pregnancy in your 40s?
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While pregnancy poses risks for women at any age, potential complications are heightened for women over 40. The complications range from mild to severe, which can potentially lead to a difficult pregnancy or possible miscarriage.
Some potential risks that may arise in pregnant women over the age of 40 are:
High blood pressure: If left untreated, it can lead to preeclampsia, a blood disorder that occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
High birth weight of baby: Also known as fetal macrosomia, it is when a baby weighs over 8 pounds and 13 ounces after birth.
Down syndrome: A genetic disorder that develops when cellular division creates an additional or partial copy of chromosome X.
Gestational diabetes: Type of diabetes that develops in women who haven’t been previously diagnosed with diabetes.
Gestational hypertension: A form of blood pressure that arises during pregnancy.
Need for a blood transfusion during pregnancy or delivery when you’ve experienced blood loss.
Placenta previa: Occurs when some or all of the placenta covers the opening of the uterus.
C-section: An alternative option for mothers and their babies when natural birth is not the safest delivery method.
Miscarriage or stillbirth
Thankfully, with advancements in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), options like IVF with PGT-A — or the genetic testing of embryos for chromosomal abnormalities — can greatly reduce the risk of miscarriage, Down Syndrome, and more in women over 40.
Fertility options for women over 40
If you’ve been trying to conceive at home with no luck for over 6 months, being over the age of 40 is a good enough reason to visit a fertility specialist right away.
Before selecting the best one for you, inquire about the clinic’s success rates for patients in your age-range, and arrive at the consultation with plenty of questions about your odds of conceiving with your own eggs based on your initial diagnostic test results.
Also, know that while IVF with your own eggs is definitely possible over 40, if may take more than one cycle to achieve your desired results. Your healthcare provider should be able to offer you realistic expectations, and if not, please don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.
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Additionally, other fertility options are available for women over 40 if they cannot use their own eggs for conception.
Donor eggs: If you’re interested in carrying your child but no longer have high-quality eggs, you can use donor eggs for your pregnancy.
Surrogacy: If your eggs are healthy enough for conception but you cannot carry a pregnancy, you can choose to have a gestational carrier carry and deliver the child for you.
Adoption: While it’s definitely not an easy route, adopting a child can be a great alternative to starting a family over the age of 40.
If these avenues are financially out of reach for you, there are also ways to increase your chances of conceiving at home before seeking medical intervention. twoplus Fertility’s Applicator Extra is designed specifically for at-home intravaginal insemination (IVI), allowing you to deposit sperm in the right place, bypassing the lower vaginal tract to aid their chances of survival, fertilization, and (hopefully), conception. To learn more, click here and use the code FR15OFF for 15% off your purchase.
Motherhood is a beautiful experience that many women long to have. Although there may be increased challenges when trying to become pregnant, there are still many benefits associated with becoming a parent after age 40. Know that while it is absolutely possible, you may have to pursue alternative options to become pregnant, and your OB/GYN or fertility specialist can help ensure that you’re choosing the best path for you.
Taneia Surles is an Alabama-based freelance health and wellness writer and the founder of Content By Taneia, LLC. She holds a Master's degree in Public Health with a Health Behavior concentration and specializes in health and wellness, productivity, education, entrepreneurship, and true crime content.