Here’s a summary of the most important things you need to know about pregnancy after 40, mostly from the University of Maryland Medical Center. Since this list isn’t full of good news for women who want to get pregnant after age 40, we’ll start with a resource to help women get pregnant naturally, plus words of hope from the British Pregnancy Advisory Service.
You Can Get Pregnant Over 40, Naturally by Sandy Robertson describes tips for overcoming infertility and recurrent miscarriage in your later years. She developed a specific pregnancy protocol, which she used to conceive multiple times over the age of 40.
“Over the past few years, we have seen much scare-mongering about older women’s fertility,” says Ann Furedi, chief executive of British Pregnancy Advisory Service in Biological clock not a time bomb after 40. “From career women leaving it too late to older women banking on IVF to conceive, these stories lead many women to dramatically underestimate their own fertility later in life.” Fertility does decline as you get older, but you need to know that the drop is not as great as we are sometimes led to believe. If you’re over 40 and you don’t want to get pregnant, use contraception until after menopause.
15 Things You Need to Know About Pregnancy After 40
This list of “things you need to know about pregnancy after 40” is more about the “things you need to do if you want to get pregnant after age 40.” I have to warn you, though: most of the things you need to know and do with regard to pregnancy after 40 aren’t fun…but they are important.
Since this list is depressing, I added hopeful words of encouragement about getting pregnant after 40 in the middle and at the end. You need to know that this list of potential problems for pregnancy after 40 isn’t a prophecy for you. These are just things women who are over 40 and pregnant need to know about. Also, remember that there are benefits to pregnancy after 40! Read Having a Baby in Your 40s – The Benefits of Late Motherhood.
Know the risk of genetic disorders
Be aware of the increased risk of genetic disorders (chromosomal abnormalities) and the tests you may need during pregnancy to detect them is an important part of getting pregnant after age 40. Meeting with a genetic counselor or fertility doctor should help figure out which tests should be administered.
If you’re over (or nearing) 40 and trying to conceive, get an ovulation test kit such as Clearblue Digital Ovulation Test. Don’t forget to get your husband’s sperm tested as well.
As women age, their eggs do not divide as well. This causes genetic problems, and the most common genetic disorder is Down syndrome. Down syndrome is caused by the presence of an additional chromosome that causes intellectual disability and defects of the heart and other organs.
Learn about chromosomal abnormalities
While the risk is still relatively low, you need to know that it does increase significantly when pregnancy after age 35 occurs. If 1,000 33-year-old women are tested, five of them will have a baby with abnormal chromosomes. If 1,000 40-year-old women are tested, 25 will have a baby with a chromosome problem. The risk continues to rise as women get older, which is why pregnancy after 40 is a bit more stressful.
Learn about the tests available for detecting genetic abnormalities relatively early into the pregnancy: amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS). You need to know that these tests do create a slight risk for miscarriage for pregnant women over age 40. There are also non-invasive screening tests that look at the levels of biochemical markers in your blood and ultrasound measurements. Abnormal results indicate an increased risk for Down syndrome, and diagnostic tests (amniocentesis or CVS) is usually recommended. If you choose to have the testing done and there is an abnormality, you will have to decide if you want to continue or terminate the pregnancy.
Be aware of the relationship between pregnancy loss and chromosomal abnormalities. About pregnancy after 40, you need to know that a woman older than 35 has a higher risk of miscarriage than younger women. For a pregnant woman over 40, the risk more than doubles compared to a woman in her 20s and early 30s. Most of the time, these miscarriages result from chromosomal abnormalities, and these abnormalities are more likely in women over 35 and pregnancy after 40.
Be aware that the chances of getting pregnant after age 40 decrease as you get older, and your risk of miscarriage rises. If you are older than 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for more than six months, you should talk to your health care provider about fertility treatments. Conditions that may contribute to infertility include endometriosis, uterine fibroids (benign growths in the uterus), and blocked fallopian tubes.
Take care of your health issues
If you have existing medical conditions (e.g., high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, obesity) – get them into a stable, controlled state before considering pregnancy after 40. Discuss getting pregnant with your doctor, and how the pregnancy and childbirth might affect your current medical condition.
Be aware of the possibility of multiple births. The incidence of having twins or triplets is increased in later life pregnancy even without infertility drugs. Multiple-birth pregnancies are considered higher risk.
If you want to hear from a woman who got pregnant in her late 40s, read Getting Pregnant in Your 40s – Tips From a Pregnant 50 Year Old.
Don’t lose hope if you want to get pregnant after 40
Gynaecologist Tina Cotzias agrees that “older” women shouldn’t be daunted about pregnancy after 40. “Yes, chances of pregnancy decline with age but this doesn’t mean it will never happen to you as an individual,” she says in “Biological clock not a time bomb after 40.” “And, of course, there are many reasons why it might not be right for a woman to have babies in her twenties, not least that she may not have met the right man.” She adds that the most important thing is not to scare single women about the chances of getting pregnant after age 40, but to communicate to younger women (eg, 28-year-old who is with the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with) that they might be better off trying for a baby now than delaying it 10 years.
Prepare for possible health problems during pregnancy
Common medical conditions in women over 40 include diabetes and high blood pressure. If you have one of these conditions, you need to know you’ll be more susceptible to problems while you’re pregnant after 40. Even if you don’t have these conditions, older women are more likely to develop gestational diabetes and pregnancy-related high blood pressure. Additionally, there is a higher risk of placental and bleeding problems in pregnancies after 40.
Take prenatal vitamins with folic acid
Take prenatal vitamins with folic acid before you get pregnant – whether or not pregnancy after 40 is your goal.
Rainbow Light Prenatal One Multivitamins are a popular brand on Amazon. Prenatal vitamins help prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. However, you need to know that vitamins won’t guarantee that your baby will be born healthy, as pregnancy after 40 is riskier.
Learn about the risk of pre-eclampsia
You need to know that the risk of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia is higher in women over 40 who are having their first baby. The reasons for this are not well understood. In some cases, it happens as a result of having diabetes or high blood pressure before getting pregnant. Pre-eclampsia is a serious complication that can occur during pregnancy after 40. It may cause high blood pressure, swelling of your face and hands, and protein in your urine. Subsequently, it can impair your nervous system and cause seizures, stroke, or other serious complications.
Prepare for labor problems
About pregnancy after 40, you need to know that the risk for having labor problems increases for women over 35 and even more for women over 40 who are having their first child. Studies have shown that older women have a greater chance of prolonged second stage labor and fetal distress. This increases the likelihood of a forceps or vacuum-assisted vaginal delivery or a C-section. Older women also have a higher risk of stillbirth.
Before Your Pregnancy: A 90-Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception by Amy Ogle, Lisa Mazzullo and Mary D’Alton is a wonderful resource on conception and getting pregnant, whether or not you’re a woman over age 40.
The source of these 10 things you need to know about pregnancy after 40 is Later Age Pregnancy from University of Maryland Medical Center. Originally written by Irina Burd, MD, PhD, Maternal Fetal Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, and originally reviewed by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
And finally – you need to know a hopeful story for pregnancy after 40!
Research shows that older mothers usually have more solid marriages, earn higher salaries and live longer than women who have their children in their twenties. Here’s a real-life example: Ellie Stoneley was 47 when she conceived her daughter — Hope, who is now two — after in vitro fertilization (IVF). “I had a straightforward pregnancy, and the medical staff could not have been more supportive,” she says in “Biological clock not a time bomb after 40.” “I get tired from time to time, but so do all new parents… all my energy is focused on my daughter. I wish I’d had a child younger as I would’ve loved to have many children, but I do feel incredibly blessed.”
If you have any thoughts on these things you need to know about pregnancy after 40, please comment below. Note that I can’t offer medical advice or counseling.