Thinking of getting pregnant at 40? Already pregnant at 40? Either way, congratulations! There’s never a perfect time to get pregnant, and there’s never been a better — or safer — time to join the 40-plus parent club.
Perhaps you want to make sure that your career is off the ground before you navigate projectile poop. Maybe you want to travel the world, find the right partner, or simply be in a place in your life where you feel settled enough to be the best mama to your baby.
Whatever your reasons, you are most certainly not alone. Thousands of women are embracing this choice a little later in life. In fact, over the past few years the birth rate for US women in their forties has continued to increase.
And, as you may know from personal experience, there are numerous reasons for this surge in popularity.
Having a baby at 40
Yes. Life literally can begin at 40 — your baby’s life, that is, as well as your life as a mama.
So if this is where you’re at, let’s talk about what you need to know.
Benefits of having children after 40
Yes, there are definitely some upsides to having babies after 40! Compared to your 25-year-old self, you might have more money, a more stable career (maybe with added flexibility?), a secure relationship and/or a supportive community that you’ve built over time, and more patience and wisdom for raising a child. Some studies even suggest that children born to women over 40 are likely to do better in school!
And believe it or not, there might be some physical health benefits to having a child after 40. Having a child later in life could lead to less cognitive decline for mama as well as possibly a longer lifespan.
Risks of pregnancy after 40
Though there are many wonderful reasons to get pregnant after 40, there are also (as we’re sure you’ve heard) a few risks associated with pregnancy at this age.
For starters, the older you are, the more difficult it can be to get pregnant. But take heart, we said “difficult,” not “impossible.” Let’s dive into some frequently asked questions:
What are the odds of becoming pregnant after 40?
The biggest obstacle to pregnancy after 40 is your fertility.
Real talk: it declines, just like your ability to manage an all-nighter.
Yup. It’s one of life’s greatest ironies. Just as you make up your mind, and are all ready for this major life change, your body is like, we’ll just see about that.
While being over that 40 hump means that the decline in fertility gets a lot steeper, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible. With the help of your doctor, you may just find yourself wiping baby puke off your new shirt in no time.
(And that’s important. Not the puke part. The doctor part. The older you are, the more those doctor visits are going to matter. Keep your healthcare provider close at hand.)
What are the odds of having a healthy baby at 40?
If you’re looking at having a baby at 40 (or 40+), here are some things to consider:
- Your body is of a fine vintage. And while this may mean that you have cultivated the most magnificent laugh lines, it also means that chances of health risks like high blood pressure might be greater than they once were.
- You’ve got some mature eggs. Meaning some of them may be getting a bit fatigued, causing possible chromosomal outliers. While a 25-year-old mama-to-be has a 1 in 1,200 chance of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome, a 40-year-old’s odds increase to 1 in 100.
- Your eggs might be in shorter supply. Your ovaries are like, Give me a break! This egg supply thing has been happening since your awkward pre-teen years — it’s time to slow down production. The reality? While you may have had in the region of 400,000 egg cells in your teen years, that number decreases to under 25,000 by the time you start thinking about becoming pregnant at 40.
- It may not have anything to do with you. In a world that tends to put many reproductive responsibilities in the lap of the mama, remember that the fertility of both partners come into play in the conception game.
So what’s next? Well, the fact is that it’s still totally possible for you to get pregnant. And if the non-medical route is not doing it for you, fertility drugs and treatments of various descriptions are there at the ready.
Some of these include:
- ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies). Well look at that. A very creative acronym – ART – for what may just be the biggest creative project of your life. This may sound a bit sci-fi, but the most common type of ART, IVF (in vitro fertilization), involves taking your eggs and fertilizing them in a lab before inserting them into your uterus. Clever!
- IUI (Intrauterine insemination) — also called artificial insemination. While this process certainly lacks the romance of date night, it may just work on the pregnancy front. IUI involves placing sperm directly into your uterus using a long, thin tube.
There are also surrogate mamas out there who are willing to do some pretty awesome things to make parenthood happen for you.
What are the chances of miscarriage at age 40?
While this may not be an easy pill to swallow, the reality is that the chances of having a miscarriage increase quite drastically with age, reaching approximately 50% by the time you’re 45 and older.
So is 40 too old to have a baby?
Um, definitely not. It’s happened before and it will happen again.
Whether you’re thinking about having a baby at 40 — or you’re already well on your way to doing so — you’re certainly in great company (like Salma Hayek, Susan Sarandon, Halle Berry kind of great company.)
So, if you needed to hear this today: wherever you’re at, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.