Pregnancy after 35 is possible and, for many people, preferable.
As many as 20% of women in the U.S. are having their first child after their 35th birthday.
Work demands, the rising cost of living, and ticking off other life goals before becoming a parent are just some of the reasons why women choose to have kids later.
Ultimately, it’s your choice how and when you have children.
And while there are some important biological considerations to be aware of, a 35+ pregnancy can come with a range of perks.
First up, there’s a lot of damaging terminology around pregnancy after 35.
(Um… geriatric pregnancy? Eek.)
As if the TTC journey wasn’t stressful enough, there’s having to navigate language that can make it all that much harder.
That’s why we’re on a mission to change things up when it comes to harmful language around fertility and motherhood.
Check out our #RenamingRevolution glossary here.
So with that all in mind, we’re going to take you through everything you need to know about having a baby after 35 so that you can make the choice that’s right for you.
In this article: 📝
- Is it possible to become pregnant after 35?
- Can I have a healthy baby at 35?
- What are the benefits of having a baby after 35?
- What is it like to have your first baby after 35?
- How do I prepare for pregnancy after 35?
- Pregnancy after 35: the bottom line.
Is it possible to become pregnant after 35?
The short answer is yes, absolutely.
It may just take a little longer, and you might need a little help along the way.
So here are the facts.
To get pregnant, you need to ovulate, the process where your ovary releases an egg into the fallopian tube.
If that egg meets up with a sperm, conception takes place. 🎉
As you get older, your egg supply diminishes, meaning this process can be harder.
We are born with all the egg cells we will ever have (🤯).
The number of eggs you have decreases as you get older.
There’s also a greater chance as we age that our eggs will have some sort of chromosomal differences that can cause conditions like Down syndrome.
So here’s what the numbers look like, from the American Society of Reproductive Medicine:
You’re most fertile in your late teens and early twenties (meaning your chances in each cycle of having a baby are at their highest).
When you’re 30, you have a 20% chance of getting pregnant (if you do what needs to be done to get pregnant, of course!).
By the time you’re 40, you have less than a 5% chance.
So yes, that’s a drop.
The great news is, there are so many tools available to us these days that can help the process along.
Through a combination of medication and in vitro fertilization (IVF) or artificial insemination, it’s possible to get pregnant all the way until you hit menopause.
(After menopause, you are no longer ovulating, meaning that there is no egg to be fertilized. That means it’s no longer possible to get pregnant.)
These fertility treatments are often accompanied by medications like Clomid (the brand name for clomiphene), which stimulate ovulation.
IVF is a form of assisted reproductive technology (ART) where an egg is fertilized outside your body and then inserted into your uterus so that it can grow and develop.
About 2% of all babies born in the U.S. every year are conceived using ART.
Artificial insemination is when a doctor inserts sperm directly into your cervix, fallopian tubes, or uterus.
The different procedures have pros and cons.
IVF is considered the most effective treatment, but it can be more costly and is considered more invasive than artificial insemination.
It’s also important to note that fertility treatments often require multiple cycles to be successful.
It can be a long, trying road ‒ but it’s also a path many have taken to parenthood.
If this looks like a route you’re keen to explore, talk to your primary care provider or visit a fertility clinic.
Can I have a healthy baby at 35?
Again, the answer here is a firm yes.
Many people have become mothers for the first time after the age of 35, or have had their second, third, or fourth child (or more!).
It may just take longer to conceive as the fertilization process gets a little harder as we age.
And you may need some medical intervention, as we’ve discussed.
If you’re older than 35, have been TTC for six months or longer, and have not yet gotten that BFP, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor.
There are so many reasons why this may be happening, and the sooner you know, the sooner you’ll be able to figure out your options.
So that you have all the info you need, let’s look at the potential risks of having a baby on the other side of 35.
You’re more likely to have a high-risk pregnancy.
A high-risk pregnancy means your healthcare team has to monitor you more closely for certain health conditions.
When you’re older, you’re more at risk for pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes (that’s diabetes that arrives for the first time when you’re pregnant) and high blood pressure disorders like preeclampsia.
Complications during pregnancy mean that you’re also more likely to need a cesarean.
Unfortunately, as you get older, the chance of miscarriage is also higher.
Your baby might be born early.
Being older can increase your chances of having a premature delivery ‒ defined as before 37 weeks ‒ or your baby having a low birth weight.
According to this study, the risk goes up when you’re over 40.
Being born prematurely is associated with various health risks, including early problems with the lungs, heart, and brain.
But there’s hope.
Thanks to all the advancements in medical care, so many premature babies go on to be healthy adults.
The chances of your baby having a genetic condition increase.
We all have 46 chromosomes ‒ 23 from one biological parent and 23 from the other.
A chromosome carries genetic information.
Sometimes, there are irregularities in how these chromosomes come together when a baby is conceived.
There could be an issue with how many chromosomes there are, how they are structured, or what they’re made up of.
Down syndrome (or trisomy 21) is one such genetic condition.
The chance of having a baby with Down syndrome increases from 1 in 1,250 when you’re 25 to 1 in 100 when you’re 40.
You’re more likely to have twins.
For some, this is not a complication but a serious plus point.
When you’re over 35, your chance of having multiples goes up.
There are a few possible reasons for this.
This study suggests it’s because of hormonal changes that happen as you get older.
And this research suggests that it’s because of an evolutionary process to counteract a decreasing egg supply.
Fertility treatments also increase the chance.
In fact, ARTs contributed to 12.5% of all multiple births in 2018 in the United States.
So, there’s a chance that you won’t only have one healthy baby on the way ‒ but two!
What are the benefits of having a baby after 35?
There are all sorts of upsides to having children later in life ‒ and the research is there to back this up.
It’s not surprising then that the median age to become a first-time mother went up from 23 in 1994 to 26 in 2018.
We’ll take you through the perks.
You could be more financially stable.
Having kids later in life gives you more time to build up your resources.
You may also be more established in your career.
(That being said, we know times are tough.
And it’s totally okay not to feel economically stable, no matter what age you are.)
You have more life experience.
This study suggests that being an older mother may equip you to deal with the emotional, social, and behavioral challenges that are part and parcel of parenting.
And being on this planet a little longer gives you a leg up when it comes to answering the barrage of WHY questions that are going to come your way.
(Unfortunately, no amount of life experience can prepare you for some of the truly unique surprises that come with parenting.)
You have time to meet your education goals.
Older mothers tend to have higher education levels.
It’s not that having a more formal education makes you a better mother.
But it does signal that women who become mothers later have had the chance to pursue an education before becoming mothers.
Whatever your personal goals are, becoming a mother later may give you some more time to pursue your own interests with total focus.
Your baby may reap the benefits.
According this 2016 study, children of older mothers seem to thrive more, statistically.
They’re healthier, taller, and more likely to receive a better education.
And this study showed that their general health improves with maternal age ‒ including a decrease in their chances of being hospitalized for serious injury.
So although there are some risks to be aware of, the benefits are certainly not to be sniffed at.
That all being said, there’s no one way to do this, and what’s right for one person is not necessarily the best for another.
Your unique set of circumstances is yours alone.
And you get to figure out what’s best for you.
What is it like to have your first baby after 35?
If you have a baby later on, there’s a good chance you will have a wonderful experience!
Some research has shown that, in comparison to younger mothers, the happiness levels of older mothers increase more significantly when they have children.
This could be because they feel more stable and ready to have children, allowing them to enjoy mamahood more.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s all a bed of roses.
As we’ve discussed, being an older mother tends to come with more health risks.
It may also mean you face some stigma.
(Remember the part about a 35+ pregnancy still being referred to as a geriatric pregnancy?)
It’s also important to note that mothers over the age of 30 are more at risk for postpartum depression.
This is a very serious medical condition that can impact your health and your capacity to care for your baby.
The symptoms include extreme sadness and irritability, a change in eating and sleeping patterns, anxiety, feelings of overwhelm and excessive guilt, and trouble concentrating.
Postpartum depression requires medical treatment in the form of talk therapy, medication, or both.
If you are struggling, it’s vital that you reach out to a healthcare professional.
And if that feels too overwhelming, talk to a friend or family member or your Peanut community.
How do I prepare for pregnancy after 35?
Preparing your body can maximise your chances of conception when you decide to plan for a baby and have a healthy pregnancy.
This includes eating a nutritious, balanced diet and getting enough exercise.
(The recommendation for adults is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, like brisk walking or swimming, and two days of muscle strengthening.)
It’s also a good idea to start taking folic acid, a B vitamin that’s really important for the health of a developing baby.
Take 400 micrograms a day, as recommended by the Department of Health for all women who are trying to conceive.
Supplemental folic acid intake increases maternal folate status (the beneficial effect is obtained with a supplemental folic acid daily intake of 400µg for at least one month before and up to three months after conception).
If you’re not sure which supplement is right for you, it’s best to speak with your doctor, but our Peanut community loves the Vitabiotics Pregnacare Conception Max formula.
It provides Zinc which contributes to normal fertility and reproduction, plus Omega-3, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Selenium, Magnesium, Coenzyme Q10, N-Acetyl Cysteine, Inositol, and an advanced form of folic acid, called L-Methylfolate.
Pregnacare Conception Max has been specially formulated to help build and safeguard your nutritional stores ready for pregnancy.
It’s important to remember that, while they are not a substitute for eating nutritious food, supplements will provide a daily source of nutrients to safeguard your diet.
As we mentioned before, exercise is key, too ‒ the recommendation for adults is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, like brisk walking or swimming, and two days of muscle strengthening.
Now’s also the time to stop smoking, drinking alcohol, and using drugs ‒ but this is not exactly a switch that you can just turn off.
So talk to your doctor about how to navigate this.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) provides this handy treatment facility locator for those struggling with substance abuse disorders.
Looking after your mental health is also essential.
Perhaps that means seeing a therapist to talk through some of your trepidations about the future.
Or going to couples counseling to help you better communicate with your partner.
It also means practicing self-care by taking time to do what you love and spending time with the people who matter to you.
Another important consideration is your family’s medical history.
Not all of us have access to this, but if you are able to find out if any health conditions run in your family, it can help your healthcare providers offer you the best treatment.
If you do get pregnant, it’s really vital to keep up with your prenatal care, particularly if you are being monitored for any specific health conditions.
(Interestingly, this study showed that patients over 35 receive better prenatal care than younger mamas.)
And then, do all the things that every mama-to-be needs to do, including avoiding certain foods (sorry, sushi and deli meats) and educating yourself on all things pregnancy.
(Psst. Our blog is particularly helpful for this!)
Sometimes, no matter what you do, pregnancy is just not in the cards.
This can really impact your mental health ‒ and it’s not something we talk about nearly enough.
First, take time to grieve the loss.
Know that this is a loss in your life and you don’t have to abide by any pressure to carry on, business-as-usual.
You may want to consider other options, like adoption or fostering.
There are so many ways to have a family and sometimes, our journeys lead us to some pretty remarkable destinations.
Or you might decide to live child-free and discover that this welcomes a new chapter in your life that is filled with new passions and adventure.
Of course, getting to these decisions, particularly after TTC struggles, can be really taxing and often very isolating.
It’s important to seek professional care as well as support from those who are going through similar life changes.
Know that you don’t have to do this alone.
Pregnancy after 35: the bottom line.
Yes, it’s possible ‒ more so than ever before.
Yes, it comes with some risks.
Yes, there are some big benefits to it.
If you think this is a journey you’d like to embark on, we wish you all the best!
And wherever you’re at, we’re here to support you along the way. ❤️