Your chances of conceiving decrease as you age. It's natural for you to worry about becoming pregnant when you are past what is considered the fertile and reproductive age, which is below 35 years. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that about 30% of women between ages 40 and 44 have infertility issues.
The success of pregnancy at different ages
You are born with approximately two million eggs, and they are all you will have in your lifetime. Your biological clock starts ticking when you get your first period and continues until you reach menopause. By the time you receive your first period, your egg supply reduces to approximately 300,000 eggs. Between the ages of 12 and 52, you will ovulate about 500 times, and not all of those eggs will be healthy.
As you age, what remains are a select few eggs that can be considered genuinely viable for pregnancy. Your chances of getting pregnant continue to dwindle as you progress in age as follows:
- Between 20 and 24 years of age: This is the magic window for making babies. At the age of 21, you have a 90% chance that the chromosomes in your eggs are healthy, which helps your chances of getting a healthy baby. Your fertility reaches its peak at the age of 24 years.
- Between 25 and 29 years: From your mid-20s, specifically age 25 to about 34 years, the conception rate reduces to 86% after trying for a year. You also have a slightly higher chance of having a miscarriage than when you're in your early 20s.
- Between 30 and 34 years: You still have high odds of conceiving, but your chances of having a miscarriage are also higher. You don’t need to try fertility treatments until you’ve been trying to conceive for more than a year without success.
- Between 35 and 39 years: Your chances are still good, particularly before you hit 37 years old. However, for most women, 35 seems to be the age when fertility declines. The primary reason for this is the declining egg quality. While you may still produce many eggs, they are likely to have chromosome-related defects that reduce their viability. This puts you at the risk of abnormal pregnancy, conceiving a baby with Down syndrome, or a miscarriage.
- Between 40 and 44: Your egg quality and quantity continue to decline as you age. At this age, you have some challenges that make it harder to become and stay pregnant.
- 45 and beyond: Your likelihood of becoming pregnant at this age is no more than 3 or 4%. While it’s not impossible to conceive, assisted reproductive technologies are almost always required to enhance your success rate.
Fertility treatments after 40
Assisted reproductive technology comes in to help you conceive after the age of 40, but it is less effective compared to younger ages. For example:
- The success rate of intrauterine insemination (IUI) can be as low as 5% for women in their 40s.
- The success rate for in vitro fertilization is slightly higher, standing at about 15% per cycle. However, the rate is not as good as it is for people in their younger age groups. Besides, the percentage of live births for women over 40 is only 5.8% per IVF cycle.
- Egg donation presents the best chance for you to get pregnant after 40 years. Often, the chances of conception are higher if you use a donated egg from a younger and healthier donor that has been inseminated with your partner’s sperm. The success rate can increase by about 35%.
Risks of pregnancy after the age of 35 years
Pregnancy at 45 years is not a frequent occurrence, and when it happens, both you and the baby should be considered high risk. Getting pregnant while older comes with an increased risk of gestational trophoblastic, a rare disease in which abnormal cells grow in the uterus after you conceive. It also comes with the risk of spontaneous abortion and abnormalities in the unborn child.
Getting pregnant after the age of 35 also puts you at risk of:
- Preeclampsia, which is a complication that causes high blood pressure and organ failure
- Gestational diabetes
- Cesarean delivery
- Multiple births
- Low birth weight
- Premature labor and birth
Benefits of having a baby after 40
Having a baby while you are older may come with various challenges. However, it also presents some unique benefits:
You’re more emotionally prepared for parenthood.
You might be more financially stable; hence, you might not feel the financial pinch of raising a child.
You are more prepared to focus on family, having checked off many life goals, including career, travel, and education. You’re more settled and prepared to make solid decisions concerning the upbringing of your child.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Assisted Reproductive Technology," "National Public Health Action Plan for the Detection, Prevention, and Management of Infertility."
Der Gynakologe: "Advantages of later motherhood."
International Journal of Fertility: "Fertility in Women after age forty-five."
Patient: "The truth about getting pregnancy after 40."
Stanford Children's Health: "Medical Genetics: How Chromosome Abnormalities Happen," "Risks of Pregnancy Over Age 30."
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Female Age-Related Fertility Decline," "Having a Baby After 35: How Aging Affects Fertility and Pregnancy."
UT Southwestern Medical Center: "Pregnancy over age 35: A numbers game."
Your Fertility: "Why age matters for men and women who want to have a family."
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