TTC in your 40's
I conceived my 5th baby when I was 40 and gave birth just before my 41st birthday. However studies show that a healthy woman at age 40 only has about a 5% chance of conceiving each month as compared to a woman aged 30, who has about a 20% chance of conceiving each month. (American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Age and fertility: A guide for patients. Birmingham, Alabama: American Society for Reproductive Medicine; 2003)
I know that I did not see good signs of fertility every month at that age, but there was a month when I saw good signs of fertility, and that's the month we conceived.
There are many things you can do to turn back your biological clock so that your chances of conceiving are higher, even if you're in your early 40's.
Are you thinking about having a baby in your 40's. What questions or concerns do you have?
I had my last baby at 39 years (so not quite 40) - with all my pregnancies it took me a while to conceive (anywhere from 6 to 11 months from when we started trying). To help things a long I charted my cycle, monitored my cervical mucous and took my temperature everyone morning so I knew when I was most fertile. This helped greatly increase our chances of conceiving. I also did 3 months of preconception care before baby's number 2 and 3 (I wasn't aware of preconception care with baby no. 1).
I was concerned with the increased risk of Down's Syndrome with my last baby - but decided not to do any tests to find out as we would not do anything differently even if the baby was Downs.
A lot of women talk to me about the increased risks of giving birth later in life. However other than the increased risk of chromosomal issues with the baby there aren't any issues (except if the mother has pre existing medical conditions). My experience is that women 40+ give birth beautifully.
FYI - Wikipedia quote "At age 40 - 44% will have a conception ending in a live birth within one year and 64% will have a conception ending in a live birth within four years".
I am not quite 40 but my husband and I have been considering having another baby. We are both worried about having fertility issues like we did the first time and after seeing how much more difficult becoming pregnant gets as we get older, I'm not sure if I want to go through that again. It was a very difficult time.
What other risks are associated with have a baby in later years? I know that the potential for downs syndrome goes up and like you Aussiemid wife I wouldn't even have the tests to see because I wouldn't terminate the pregnancy. I refused all of those tests time around since they aren't always 100% right. Are there any other things we should think about or consider?
Does the risk of Preeclampsia, diabetes or anything else go up in your 40's?
In answer to your question "Does the risk of Preeclampsia, diabetes or anything else go up in your 40's?", I believe the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and miscarriage goes up as you get older.
However, I have known a number of moms who have an uneventful pregnancy and give birth in their 40's with minimal or no intervention.
I can fully understand your hesitancy to embark on another pregnancy journey if your first experience was difficult for you. There are some mothers who have a driving force within them to have a child and they'll do all they can to make that happen. It sounds like you're not there right now, and whether that will change in the future or not has yet to be seen.
It's great that you're asking the tough questions now because you may have to deal with difficult circumstances if you choose to conceive again. There's no guarantee that baby would be healthy and your pregnancy would be uneventful. So it's good for you to work things through now so you're prepared for a challenge should it arise later.
But I'd also encourage you to be sure that if you decided not to try for another child, that you'd be completely okay with that later, and you wouldn't regret that decision. That's something my lactation consultant shared with me when I was having such a hard time breastfeeding my first baby. My nipples were cracked and bleeding, and it was extremely painful for 3 months. I got to the point where I was just ready to give up when she said, "It's okay for you to stop. But I want you to be absolutely sure that you won't regret it later." When I thought about that, I realized that I really DID want to have a successful breastfeeding experience and that I would regret it if I gave up. So I persevered and things got easier after 3 months and I went on to breastfeed that first baby for a year and the other four children for 2-3 years.
Do your research, ask the questions, and remember that many mums give birth to healthy babies after the age of 40 (I'm one of them) and be sure you wouldn't regret the decision not to try again. When you have peace about the decision you make, you'll know it's the right one for you and your family.
The main risk of giving birth in later years is the increased incidence of genetic problems with the baby (mainly Downs Syndrome). At forty the risk is 1 in 84 - so the majority of babies are born healthy. Many women in this age group I see decide not to test for Downs as, like you doublesunshine, they would not intervene in the pregnancy. You could consider an ultrasound at 18 to 20 weeks to see if there are any major abnormalities with the baby - this may change the place of birth you are planning for. But ultrasound does not necessarily pick up all abnormalities and the long term implications are not known.
Women 35 years and over do have a slightly higher-than-average risk of miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes, as well as a slightly increased chance of needing a caesarean birth (I think this is mainly due to a high proportion of these women having private health insurance and choosing private health care - well known for increasing the caesarean rate). But only a slight increase in these problems has been recorded and, in most cases, any problems that do occur are minor. Naturally, an older woman’s experience with pregnancy depends to a large extent on her underlying health. If you’re healthy, problems are much less likely to occur.
Good pregnancy care will pick up any problems that arise - so other than considering genetic screening there are no additional tests.
Thank you Kate and Aussiemidwife,
You both gave me some very helpful information and good things to think about. I know you are right that I have to really consider how my husband and I will feel if we choose not to conceive again. I don't ever want to have regrets in this life so we will thoughfully consider what we should do.