From being more financially stable and wiser to having a more stable relationship – there are benefits to waiting to start becoming a parent later in life. But according to the statistics, we know the chances of falling pregnant decrease as you get older. That leaves us wondering: is conceiving naturally after 40 just as likely as winning the lottery?
“Age is the single most important factor affecting a woman’s chances of getting pregnant.” – says Fertility Specialist Dr Raewyn Teirney. Let’s look at your chances of getting pregnant at 40 naturally and if it’s realistic to start your fertility journey later.
The numbers you’re fighting.
At birth, females have about 1-2 million eggs, but this number reduces over time; hence the chances of conceiving reduces with age too. So what are the numbers?
When you look at healthy women under 38 who are trying to conceive, 95% of them will fall pregnant within two years. When you compare that to healthy women in their early to mid 40s, this declines to 50%. This decline steepens until you hit menopause, and fertility is no longer on the cards.
This means half of the healthy couples will still fall pregnant naturally between 40 and 45! However, 2 years is a long time when you know time is ticking. While it’s safe to say 40s are a tough decade to fall pregnant from a medical point of view, the birth rate among women over 40 is increasing thanks to modern science and medicine. And the sooner you seek help, the more you can still do.
The main issue why it’s harder to fall pregnant at 40 or an older age, is women’s egg quality. You’re left with eggs that have taken longest to respond to your body’s cues for release. But now they’re older, their quality has reduced too. Some of these eggs are not viable for fertilisation at all, making conception slower, but also increase certain risks during the pregnancy.
Another issue to keep in mind is menopause. While the average age of menopause is around the age of 51, 45 to 55 is still considered within the normal range. Plus, approximately 5% of women go through early menopause. It’s useful to establish when your mother went through menopause, and if you have any sisters it’s worth checking with them too, as menopause is genetically linked.
Unfortunately the challenges don’t stop at falling pregnant. For both the woman and the baby there are increased risks before the joy of welcoming the little one into this world really starts.
Being pregnant after 40 may mean you have more aches and pains as you are already starting to lose mass in your joints and bones. There are also increased risks of pregnancy complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Also keep in mind you’ll likely have a C-section instead of a natural birth.
Unfortunately there’s also an increased risk of a miscarriage. In your 40s you have about a 40-50% chance of a miscarriage each time you get pregnant. The risk of having a baby with Down’s syndrome is 1 in 100, which increases to 1 in 50 at the age of 45. Other risks of your baby include premature birth or a low birth weight.
That’s why most doctors will usually suggest extra testing and monitoring during the pregnancy of women over 35. Don’t see this as a hurdle; it’s better to be safe than sorry and it can help you prepare for what’s next.
Improve your chances.
Now you’re aware of all the increased risks and complications, we can talk about what you can do to help your fertility journey. After all, there are more and more women who are having a healthy pregnancy in their 40s, and we are here to help you fall pregnant naturally.
The usual tips, 2.0
Eat healthy. Drink less alcohol and caffeine. Reduce stress. Have a stable body weight. Exercise regularly. These are just generic tips we would give every woman that is trying to conceive naturally. However, while a younger couple might get away with taking these tips less seriously, you should be more serious about implementing these lifestyle changes when you are older. Your chances have declined, so it’s time to step up your game.
Don’t wait to seek help
If you’ve been trying for 6 months without any luck, it’s a good idea to visit a doctor and rule out correctable issues such as blocked tubes or ovulatory dysfunction. Your doctor will have a look at your hormone levels called AM H (Antimullerian Hormone) to assess the quantity of your eggs. This is the egg timer test we have at present time.
Track your cycle
Again, this is something we would recommend any healthy woman to do when trying to conceive naturally. However, women in their forties start ovulating earlier and earlier in their cycle – and it’s key to try to conceive at the right time. To make sure your rhythm isn’t off, you can double check when you’re ovulating by using a basal body temperature chart, monitoring your cervical mucus, using our ovulation kit, or all of the above.
Add prenatal supplements to your diet
You wouldn’t be surprised to hear we’d recommend making prenatal supplements part of your diet. While these carefully curated supplements increase the chance of falling pregnant naturally no matter your age, they seem to do a little extra as you get older.
While this read might focus on all the negative parts of a later pregnancy, the last thing we want to do is scare you out of your parenting-dream. The number of women having healthy babies later in life are on the rise, but it’s important to be aware of the challenges you might have to face on your fertility journey when you’re 40 or older.
Don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about what to expect and a possible backup plan. With the benefits of modern science and medicine, many women safely conceive and bring their wonderful baby into the world, but don’t wait too long to seek help.