- Conceiving Naturally as You Age
- Risks of Pregnancy When Older
- Getting Pregnant When Older
- Benefits of Being an Older Mom
- Fertility Testing
- Types of Fertility Tests
Chances of conceiving naturally as you age
While stories about women giving birth in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s make for good headlines, these pregnancies are usually accomplished with donor eggs and in vitro fertilization (IVF). There is no set oldest age when you can get pregnant naturally, but fertility starts to decline as you age. You're usually not able to get pregnant between 5 and 10 years before menopause.
You're born with all of the eggs you'll ever have. As you get older, the number of eggs you have decreases. They are also more likely to have abnormalities. Additionally, the older you are, the more likely you are to develop disorders that can make you less likely to get pregnant, such as endometriosis. By the age of 45, you're not likely to get pregnant naturally.
After one year of trying, your chances of getting pregnant by age are:
- 85% if you're under 30
- 75% at 30
- 66% at 35
- 44% at 40
What are the risks of getting pregnant when you're older?
The medical term for women who get pregnant after age 35 is advanced maternal age (AMA), and it comes with additional risks for you and your baby. If you're thinking about getting pregnant after 35, consider talking to your doctor about the additional risks, including:
- Multiple babies
- Birth defects
- Pregnancy loss
- High blood pressure
- Premature birth and low birthweight
Most pregnant women over the age of 35 will have a healthy pregnancy and baby. However, you may need specialized care, such as:
- Counseling before you get pregnant to discuss risks
- Earlier and more frequent prenatal visits
- Birth defect screening, testing, and counseling
- Meeting with a specialist to discuss age-related risks to you and your baby
- Management of your existing health problems in coordination with your other healthcare providers
- Close monitoring of your baby's growth and development
- Early screening for and treatment of gestational diabetes and hypertension
- Planned delivery to avoid the need for C-section, if possible
To decrease your chances of complications:
Getting pregnant when you're older
While it may be more difficult, you can still get pregnant when you're older. Fertility depends on your ovarian function and your overall health. If you're ovulating regularly and have good eggs, you'll probably get pregnant within a year through sex alone. You can visit your doctor early in the process to test your ovarian function and find out if your odds of conceiving naturally are good.
If they are, you can try the "gunshot" method in the beginning. This involves having sex every other day during the middle third of your cycle. Your doctor can help you figure out when this critical time of your cycle happens. If you try the gunshot method for 6 months without success, you may need to start looking into other options such as IVF.
Benefits of being an older mom
Although it can be harder to get pregnant when you're older, there are also some advantages to being an older mom, for both you and your baby. These include:
Healthier preschoolers with better language skills. Preschoolers with older mothers are healthier overall. They have increased immunization rates, fewer hospitalizations, and fewer unintentional injuries than those born to younger mothers. They also tend to have better language skills and verbal development.
Increased intelligence when you're older. Women who gave birth after age 35 scored higher on tests of thinking and verbal memory when they were ages 41 to 92. Additionally, women who used contraceptives for over 10 years had better problem-solving skills and higher executive functioning skills when they were older.
Better parenting skills. It's no secret that you probably have more patience than you did when you were younger. Older moms are less likely to discipline their children harshly or yell at them. They are better at setting boundaries as well. Children with older mothers tend to have fewer behavioral, social, and emotional issues.
How is a woman's fertility tested?
For two people to conceive a child, both partners’ bodies need to make a contribution. However, if you and your partner are trying to conceive but have been unsuccessful for a year or more, both the male and the female partner should get their fertility tested. As a female, there are many tests that you are able to take.
You should take a test if you have not become pregnant after a year of having unprotected sex while not on birth control. However, it may also be appropriate to get tested earlier if:
- You are old than 35
- You experience irregular menstrual cycles or a pattern of skipped menstrual cycles
- You have had issues with your uterus, tubes, or abdominal cavity
What fertility test should I take?
You should look at fertility testing in a focused way where you can slowly analyze all the potential factors. Your partner should also be concurrently taking fertility tests with you. You should try to start with the least invasive tests first. However, the most important thing is to tailor your testing to your unique situation, medical history, and time frame.
Some of the steps that are taken and the tests that are generally considered first are:
- Both partners should start by talking through their medical history with their healthcare providers. You will need to answer questions about your sexual history, sexually transmitted diseases, medications, birth control, use of caffeine, alcohol, and drugs. You will also answer questions about your menstrual cycle, and your doctor may order a test for sexually transmitted diseases.
- In addition to a medical history exam, you will also need to take a physical exam. Usually, this will include a pap test and a pelvic exam. For men, there will be a testicular examination.
- You will then need to take urine tests, specifically when you are on your menstrual cycle so that doctors can test your levels of luteinizing hormone and progesterone. Urine tests can also be used to test your thyroid, thyroid-stimulating hormone, and prolactin levels. If you have an irregular cycle, you may also want to test your urine for prolactin, a hormone made in your pituitary gland.
- Specific blood tests may also be necessary for you. Specifically, a blood test for an anti-mullerian hormone can be used to test your ovarian reserve or your egg supply. You may also want to take a follicle-stimulating test for the same information.
- Some types of testing for sexually transmitted infections can be done on urine samples or samples from the urethra or cervix.
- Many women also will be asked to perform home urine tests in addition to those conducted at the clinic. This way, you can test the fluctuations in your body temperature as well as get more precise information about your menstruation.
If you take all of these tests and still do not find a cause, you could also take the following tests:
- Pelvic ultrasound. This test can create an image of your uterus and ovaries’ size, shape, and structure. It can tell you about the condition of your uterus and ovaries, as well as your ovarian reserve. It may be prudent to take this test specifically during your menstrual cycle.
- Hysterosalpingogram. If you and your provider feel that it may be a good idea to take a look at the inside of your uterus and fallopian tubes, this imaging test can show blockages in the fallopian tubes and explain why an egg might have trouble reaching the uterus. It can also pick up on issues of your uterus’ shape or other issues that could prevent eggs from being fertilized.
- Sonohysterogram. This test uses saline solution in combination with an ultrasound to get a better picture of your reproductive system as a whole.
- Laparoscopy. While this is technically a test, it is also a procedure that you undergo under general anesthesia. It involves your healthcare provider making a small incision into your belly and then shining a light into your pelvis. This way, they can examine you to find cysts, scar tissue, fibroids, and infections. This procedure can also be done to treat endometriosis.
If you remain unable to figure out what may be causing your infertility, you could take these tests:
- Antibody blood tests. These tests can pick up on antisperm elements in someone’s blood or genital fluids. These tests are controversial within the healthcare community, so proceed with caution.
- Chromosome or genetic testing. There are some genetic disorders that can interfere with your ability to become pregnant and carry a child to term. To test for these disorders, you can either take a chromosome analysis or a genetic test.
- Hysteroscopy. These tests are ordered to look at urine lighting. They are performed by putting a small lighted scope in your vagina. Your doctor may also take out growths or samples from your fallopian tubes during this test.
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Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Having a Baby After Age 35: How Aging Affects Fertility and Pregnancy."
American Pregnancy Association: "Fertility Test for Women."
BMJ: "The health and development of children born to older mothers in the United Kingdom: observational study using longitudinal cohort data."
European Journal of Developmental Psychology: "Associations between older maternal age, use of sanctions, and children’s socio-emotional development through 7, 11, and 15 years."
ReproductiveFacts.org: "Diagnostic Testing for Female Infertility."
Texas Children's Hospital: "Advanced Maternal Age."
Tommy's: "What happens if I’m pregnant over the age of 40?"
University of Michigan Health: "Infertility Tests."
Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences: "Knowledge about the impact of age on fertility: a brief review."
University of Missouri: "Planning a Pregnancy After 40."
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