A growing number of women delay motherhood until later in life. There are great benefits to having a baby when you’re more mature, prepared, and experienced. Still, although many women in their late 30s and early 40s have healthy babies some problems increase in frequency as you get older.
Talk with your doctor
Since every woman's situation is unique, it's a good idea to consult with your doctor before pregnancy to assess your personal risk factors and overall health. Your doctor can also give personalized advice on prenatal care.
Conceiving may not be a problem, but, in general, fertility begins to decline in your 30s. As women age, they may ovulate less frequently or more irregularly, their eggs may be harder to fertilize, and problems with endometriosis and blocked fallopian tubes are more common.
If you have tried for six months to a year to get pregnant, you may consider consulting with your physician, especially if you're older than age 35. Conception is most likely to occur just a few days out of every month. You can increase your odds by tracking your most fertile days of the month with a home ovulation kit.
If you don’t get pregnant, visit your doctor, who may schedule tests. If your doctor confirms a diagnosis of infertility, you may consider fertility treatments. Advances in fertility treatments have greatly improved the odds of older women becoming pregnant.
Pregnancy risk factors
Although many women in their late 30s and early 40s have healthy pregnancies, there are some factors to be aware of:
- Advanced maternal age. At age 35, doctors will refer to you as being of "advanced maternal age" and consider you high risk based solely on your age.
- Miscarriage risk. One risk that increases is the likelihood of miscarriage, which is about 15% for women in their 20s but about 25 to 30% by age 40.
- Health risks. Older women also have an increased tendency to develop high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, cardiovascular disease, placental abruption, preeclampsia, and stroke.
- Delivery differences. An older mom is slightly more likely to experience an early delivery and prolonged labor, have a cesarean section, and deliver a lower birth-weight baby.
- Multiple fetuses. Women who used fertility treatments to conceive have an increased likelihood of carrying multiple fetuses, adding to possible complications during pregnancy. Even without fertility treatments, older moms are more likely to have twins or triplets.
Despite these possibilities, your age is no guarantee that you'll experience any of these conditions. Advances in medical care make it possible to manage these conditions successfully.