Most of us have heard that Halle Berry is pregnant at the age of 46. Wow, you go girl! And did you see the recent episode of Call the Midwife where a first-time pregnant woman (a twin) in her 40s gave birth to twins of her own? Some women are asking us “If they can, why can’t I?” Good question, complicated answer.
Women over age 35 may be less fertile than younger women because they tend to ovulate (release an egg from the ovaries) less frequently. Certain health conditions that are more common in this age group also may interfere with conception. These include endometriosis, blocked fallopian tubes and fibroids.
If you are over 35 and haven’t conceived after 6 months of trying, make an appointment to see your health care provider. Studies suggest that about one-third of women between 35 and 39 and about half of those over age 40 have fertility problems. At age 47, most babies are conceived with some form of fertility treatment. This can be time consuming and expensive and there is no guarantee the treatment will work.
Most miscarriages occur in the first trimester for women of all ages, but the risk of miscarriage increases with age. Studies suggest that about 10 percent of recognized pregnancies for women in their 20s end in miscarriage. The risk rises to about 35 percent at ages 40 to 44 and more than 50 percent by age 45. The age-related increased risk of miscarriage is caused, at least in part, by increases in chromosomal abnormalities.
The good news is that women in their late 30s and 40s are very likely to have a healthy baby. However, they may face more complications along the way than younger women. Some complications that are more common in women over 35 include: gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, placental problems, premature birth, stillbirth. About 47% of women over age 40 give birth via cesarean section. You can see why it’s so important to keep all appointments with your health care provider.
All these things taken into consideration, many women who do conceive in their late 40s, either on their own (unlikely but not impossible) or with some fertility treatment, do manage to have healthy babies. The important thing to remember is to have a preconception checkup and early and regular prenatal care. Know the signs of preterm labor, and give your doc or midwife a call whenever you have a question or concern.