Updated: May 5, 2021
Society would have us believe that if we are not married with kids by our thirties, we are far behind the clock with our achievements. That could be no further from the truth! If you have spent your life following other dreams outside of starting a family and now find yourself approaching 40, or are in your 40s and ready to start this journey here is what you need to know.
Firstly, it is never too late to start a family. It is important however, to be fully aware of the risks and benefits of doing so when you are in your 40s and past your prime childbearing stage. Some of the disadvantages include difficulty getting pregnant, difficulty staying pregnant and various pregnancy and birth complications which you are at a higher risk of facing as you get older.
Your eggs gradually decline in number and quality as you get older. Over age 35 is considered to be ‘advanced maternal stage’. Your fertility rates will continue to decrease and by age 44 and over, the possibility of natural pregnancy may be little to none. Many women have explored fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) as well as considering egg donations from a younger donor.
Pregnancy loss that happens before 20 weeks is known as a miscarriage and any pregnancy loss after this stage is considered a stillbirth. While miscarriages and stillbirths can occur at any age, as you get older the risk of both increase. According to research done in the field, women between the ages of 40-44 have a 33% chance of miscarriage.
Another major side effect of getting pregnant at a later age include higher risks of pregnancy complications and birth complications. Pregnancy complications include preeclampsia (high blood pressure), gestational diabetes (high blood sugar) or a risk of developing placenta previa (where the placenta fully or partially covers the cervix). Various chromosomal issues may occur caused by fertilization from an older egg - this can cause birth defects such as Down’s syndrome. Birth complications include an increase in the need for caesarean section rather than vaginal births.
While all of this information may sound scary, it does not mean that having a baby in your 40s is impossible or even a bad idea. It may require you to do more and more frequent tests before and during your pregnancy to monitor the health of you and your baby as well as ensure you are keeping yourself healthy and in good shape as you get older.
In fact, since the 1990s the number of women having first time births in the ages of 40-44 has more than doubled today. While this may be in part due to advances in medicine and science, various other lifestyle factors contribute to people considering having children later on. In your 40s you may find yourself to be more financially secure, have more stability in your work and even feel more mature to take on the role of a parent. Options to help with successfully achieving pregnancy include:
Fertility drugs: These help with hormones that can assist with successful ovulation.
In vitro fertilization (IVF): This works by removing eggs and fertilizing them in a lab before inserting them back into the uterus. IVF may work for women with ovulation issues, and it can also work for surrogates.
Intrauterine insemination (IUI): process to directly inject sperm into the uterus
Freezing eggs when you’re younger so that you can have them available when you’re older
Sperm donors: for couples with male factor infertility or single parent mothers
Regardless of what reason has brought you to explore this major life decision, understanding the risks and benefits is one step in guiding you down the right path and ensuring safety not just for your future child but for yourself. If you are over the age of 40 and have been unsuccessful getting pregnant naturally, book a consultation with your doctor/fertility specialist to discuss your options for pregnancy and fertility treatment.
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