Getting pregnant at 40

What's Covered

Over the years, people’s thinking has changed dramatically in regards to marriage, family and pregnancy. Statistics show that women between 35 and 39 years old had their first birth rate of 10.7 per 1000 women and women between 40 to 44 years old has a birth rate of 2.0 births as of 2005. This has a major impact in women’s health and the country’s population. As many women are opting to get pregnant at an advanced age rather than younger, what are the possible risks and benefits of getting pregnant at 40 and above? And what should you do if you are pregnant or is planning to get pregnant?

Risks

Whether you are a first-time mom or not, getting pregnant at an advanced age is considered a high-risk pregnancy. There are several reasons why, but let us focus on the most common ones. In fact, just getting pregnant is more difficult if you are 40 years old and above. As you age, your fertility rate decreases and it will only continue to fall as you get older.

While there are many fertility treatments available to help you get pregnant like IVF or invitro fertilization, egg donation, and IUI or intrauterine insemination, there are still risks of staying pregnant when you are 40 years old and above. Some of them are as follows:

Miscarriage

It is called miscarriage if the fetus is lost at 20 weeks gestation or below. While there are many factors that can affect miscarriage, getting pregnant at 40 can put you at higher risk and this will only increase as you age. This is usually because of the mother’s older eggs. There are also some factors that affect miscarriage like unhealthy lifestyle and radiation exposure.

Stillbirth

If the fetus is lost after 20 weeks of gestation, it is called stillbirth. Just like miscarriage, stillbirth is common with pregnant women with advance age. There are many reasons for stillbirth including birth defects, high blood pressure, placenta problems, infections, and unhealthy lifestyle.[1]

Even though there are many reasons that causes stillbirth, there is no proven way to prevent it, especially in women with high-risk pregnancies and pregnant women ages from 40 years old and above.

High Sugar Level

Pregnant women are at risk of having high blood sugar levels. In fact, women above 25 years old are already at risk of having high blood sugar levels but more so if you are 40 years old or above. This condition is called gestational diabetes and can be detected when you are 6 months along or between 24th to 28th weeks gestation. Having gestational diabetes can put both you and your child’s health at risk and can lead to more severe complications if not treated correctly. The cause of gestational diabetes is still unknown but most believe that it is because of the hormonal imbalance when you are pregnant.

The most common type of gestational diabetes is Class A1. This can be controlled by diet alone. Your doctor or a health expert will tell you what food to avoid and what are the things you can do to help lower down your sugar level. The other type of gestational diabetes is called Class A2. This is a more advance type of gestational diabetes and needs medication and close monitoring.

High Blood Pressure

                Hypertension in an advanced age is common but more so if you are a pregnant woman. High blood pressure in pregnant women is caused by infections like UTI or Urinary Tract Infection, kidney problems, heart disease, and other factors. While hypertension can be cured by means of oral medication and blood pressure monitoring during pregnancy with the help of your doctor, it can lead to other and more sever complications live preeclampsia.

Preeclampsia

Preeclampsia is a condition wherein you have high blood pressure while you are pregnant. It is caused by liver or kidney problems and possibly protein in your urine. This condition can lead to eclampsia or seizure and death for both mother and child if not treated correctly.

Some symptoms of preeclampsia include swelling of face, hands and feet, sudden weight gain, blurry vision, headache that won’t go away and sometimes pain in your higher abdomen. However, there are also pregnant women that do have any symptoms of preeclampsia and the only indicating factor is the abnormal increase of their blood pressure.

Your doctor or health professional may give you medications during pregnancy to prevent complications of preeclampsia. Since this condition can lead to more severe and life-threatening complications for both mother and child, 90 to 95% of the time your doctor may recommend delivering your baby via a C-Section as many believes this will further prevent severe complications of preeclampsia. [2]

Low birth weight

As with miscarriage and stillbirth, pregnant women at the age of 40 and above can cause low birth weight because of premature birth, problem with the mother’s placenta, some complications during pregnancy and also birth defects.

Low birth weight in babies can cause premature death, slow developmental capabilities in babies, and other health complications as well. While treatment of low birth weight can differ depending on the situation, your baby may need to stay at the hospital for further treatment and diagnostics. Most babies with low birth weights develop normally especially if your baby has no other complications. However, there are some babies that have minor mental disabilities, lower immunity and other health problems.

Birth Defects

Another common risk of getting pregnant at an advanced age is having a birth defect in babies. Older women are at higher risk of getting birth defects because of abnormalities as the mother’s eggs are older and the placenta is weaker than younger ones.

There are many types of birth defects. Some are diagnosed after birth and some are not diagnosed even after a few years of birth. The most common birth defects are down syndrome, cleft lip or palate, heart defect or club foot.

While there are types of birth defects that can be detected and diagnosed during pregnancy, it is not always the case. The only way birth defects can be detected is after giving birth. Nowadays, newborn screening is done after you gave birth to determine and diagnose if your baby has birth defects. This is the best time to also cure defects caused by birth.

Many birth defects cannot be prevented; however, pregnant women should take doctor’s prescribed medicine to lower the risk of brain and bone defects in your child. Existing medical condition and medication also increases the risk of birth defects. If you are pregnant or is planning to get pregnant, consult your doctor before taking other medication as it could lead to serious health problem for you and your unborn child.

Benefits

While getting pregnant at 40 or older posted a lot of risks, a lot of couples and women are still opting to get pregnant at this age. This is because they saw the benefits of getting pregnant at this point in their lives and it overpowers the risks involved. Some benefits of getting pregnant older includes financial and emotional stability, better medical assistance, and mental wellbeing. [3]

Financial Stability

Most women who are opting to get pregnant at the age of 40 are because they have a career at their young age and they have chosen to pursue it rather than settle down and build a family. They think that they can build a family later on once they are already successful and can financially sustain the child or children she will be having in the future. Some women choose not to get pregnant at a young age because they do not know if their partner will be there for her and her baby throughout their lives and if she can feed and support her child on her own. Thus, they do not want to risk getting pregnant until they are sure about everything.

Whatever the case maybe, women are now opting to get pregnant at an older age compared before because they would like to secure their children’s future. They do not want to risk their child’s life by making sure that they are financially stable before getting pregnant. Oftentimes, they are already in their late 30s or early 40s when this happens.

Emotionally Ready

Older people are wiser and have more experience, thus, they mostly know what they want in life. If a 40-year-old woman or older is planning to get pregnant, be sure that they are emotionally ready. They have already contemplated the idea from some time before finally deciding to give it a go.

Since they are ready emotionally, they are also less likely to have postpartum depression once they have delivered. They are also more ready to be a mother than younger ones at their age. It is essential not only for the mother’s sake but also for their children as mothers can give emotional support when their baby needs them.

Longer Life

There have been several studies that are associating motherhood at an advanced age to longevity of life. Although it is still too early to say if this is 100% accurate, a lot of studies have pointed out that if you had your last baby in your mid-30s, you are more than likely to live at a ripe age of 90 and above.

Smarter moms

Researchers also said that having your baby at a later age can boost your brain function and learning. This is associated with women who have taken hormonal contraceptives for 10 years or more as hormones can promote or boost your brainpower. 

Educational Support

As with financial and emotional stability, another benefit of having pregnancy at a later age is providing educational support for your children. Because older women are more than likely to have financial freedom and security, they have more time to actually teach their children and spend time with them. Also, since older parents have gained a lot of experience and knowledge, they can teach their children better too.

Children with older parents are also smarter because the parent can provide full support and patience to them in terms of helping them study. They usually pass whatever they have learned to their children.

Has partner in life

One of the reasons why women are now opting to have babies in their 40s is because they do not want to take responsibility while they are unsure of what their life would be. By the time they hit the age of 40, most of them have already settled in life, have insurance, and have a partner that can help them with the responsibility of taking care of the child. Having two parents while growing up is good for the kid’s emotional and psychological development. It also ensures that the child will grow in a happy environment.  [4]

Tips

If you are planning to get pregnant at 40, taking care of your wellbeing is very important not only for you but also for your child. Especially if you are already at your advanced age of 35 and above as you are already prone to complications caused by your age. There are a lot of things you can and cannot do when you are planning to have a baby and these will help you lessen the risks and protect you and your unborn child during pregnancy.

Getting pregnant

Older women are having difficulty getting pregnant and staying pregnant mainly because the fertility rate of their eggs have decreased compared to that of the younger women and it will only continue to fall as you get older. There are natural ways and health treatments you can take to help you conceive. Before you choose, ask your doctor about what would be the best for you.

If you are planning to get pregnant, it would be best to consult a fertility expert on what medicines you should or should not take. This reduces the risk of birth defects especially if you have diabetes or high blood pressure. You should also watch your body weight and your diet, quit smoking and avoid drinking alcoholic drinks. Your partner needs to quit smoking as well because it can affect the semen quality. This is also to reduce the risk of getting secondary smoke into your body while you are pregnant. Some couples timed their sexual intercourse to increase the rate of getting pregnant while some regulate their intercourse every two or three days to be sure. It is best to talk to your partner and doctor about what would be the best for you both.

There are also clinical treatments or methods you can use to get pregnant. If you are young and you want to make sure that you get pregnant later in life, you may also opt to “freeze” your eggs so they retain their fertility rate once you are ready to conceive.

Staying Pregnant

Pregnant women are susceptible to risks and this is especially so when you are older, and staying pregnant and actually giving birth can be difficult to some. Once you conceive, you will need to be extra careful for you and your baby. Follow your doctor’s advice to make sure that you and your baby are safe. Your doctor or health professional may provide you with medicines to make sure your baby is safe until you pop. Regular visits to your doctor or health professional are also another way to make sure you and your baby is safe. There are also pregnancy belt or maternity belt that can help ensure that your baby is safe especially when you travel.

Monitoring your weight

Weight gain in pregnant women is normal as you go along your pregnancy. However, sudden and excessive weight gain can be one of the symptoms of preeclampsia. One of the possible ways to reduce risk of getting preeclampsia is to monitor your diet and body weight. Taking your body weight daily and recording them is one way to make sure to stay healthy.

Diet

Eating a balanced meal everyday will help you reduce risks of complications when you are pregnant. Although you may feel hungry all the time because your baby is absorbing all the energy and food you eat, you cannot eat as you please. There are foods that may be harmful for you and your baby. Ask your doctor or health professional about what to eat and what to avoid.

If you have diabetes or have gestational diabetes, eating sweet foods can be harmful for you and your baby. Ask your doctor if you are in doubt before eating your favorite chocolate cake. 

Healthy Lifestyle

Whether you are planning to get pregnant or is currently pregnant, maintaining a healthy lifestyle will dramatically reduce the risk of birth defects, miscarriage, stillbirth and other complications that is associated with pregnancy.

Stop drinking alcohol if you are pregnant. Alcohol passes quickly through the umbilical cord and into your baby causing damage to your baby’s undeveloped body, brain and internal organs. If you are planning to get pregnant or are suspecting to be pregnant, you should refrain from drinking alcoholic drinks for you and your child’s health.

Quit smoking. It is not only your health that is at risk but your baby as well. Smoking during pregnancy can cause birth defects, increases the chance of miscarriage and stillbirth, and even sudden death syndrome. If your partner is smoking, you should ask him to quit as well to eliminate second hand smoke that will also affect you and your baby.

Monitor Blood Pressure

It is essential to monitor your blood pressure during your pregnancy. This will further help you monitor your health and help you maintain your healthy lifestyle and balanced diet. There are many types of blood pressure monitor that you can choose from, but if you are not a health professional like me, you can use a digital one. They are accurate and easier to use.

Exercise

Experts agree that working out is healthy during pregnancy. In fact, it even decreases a lot of pregnancy risks and symptoms and can even help you recover once you give birth. But before you do any workout, as always, ask your doctor or health professional about the best exercises for pregnant women to avoid of risking you and your unborn child’s health and wellbeing.

Insurance

As older women are prone to risks during pregnancy and delivery, more and more women are choosing to deliver their baby via a C-section once they hit the 37 weeks gestation period. This will make sure that the baby and the mother is safe from complications caused by preeclampsia. And having insurance would be great as it will relieve you from financial stress when your delivery day arrives.[5]

Final Thoughts

They say life begins at 40. Well, it certainly looks that way! Whether you are hoping to start building your family or is adding a new one, has a partner or a single mom, it is important you know the risks, benefits and expectations of getting pregnant at your advance age. This is to make sure you are ready emotionally, physically, mentally, and financially before diving into the battlefield. Best of luck to your pregnancy journey. May you have a safe delivery and your baby healthy!


[1] Robinson, Gail Erlick. “Pregnancy loss.” Best practice & research Clinical obstetrics & gynaecology 28.1 (2014): 169-178.

[2] Roberts, J. M., & Gammill, H. S. (2005). Preeclampsia: recent insights. Hypertension46(6), 1243-1249.

[3] Ferris, Thomas F. Medical complications during pregnancy. Ed. Gerard N. Burrow. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders, 1999.

[4] Gilbert, William M., Thomas S. Nesbitt, and Beate Danielsen. “Childbearing beyond age 40: pregnancy outcome in 24,032 cases.” Obstetrics & Gynecology 93, no. 1 (1999): 9-14.

[5] Amata, Shop. “Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy.”

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Author

Vivian Perry

Vivian Perry

Mother of 3 kids. Enjoy reading parenting books and studied child care degree. Vivian loves to learn and write about parenting tips and help her kids to grow positively with grit mindset.

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