Fifty years ago the occurrence of pregnancy over 40 was rare, and generally an “oops baby” or change of life child. Today however, it has become very normal.
Whether you are a new mom at 40, delayed children for a career, conceived via the miracle of modern medicine or just have a blessed surprise, there are things that you should know.
Pregnancy over 40 years of age has a few specific challenges, and while there is no way to head into parenthood being able to anticipate every complication or bump in the road, there a few you can anticipate.
The top 5 things women who are over 40 and trying to conceive should know are listed below:
While more mature mothers often offer much to their children by way of being more financially and emotionally grounded, these gifts given by means of time and age come with a price.
Age gives with one hand while taking with the other. A 40 year old woman’s body is not as forgiving to the rigors of pregnancy.
With the added mileage comes a higher rate of breakdown. More than 33% of pregnancies over 40 end in miscarriage.
The high rate of miscarriage is thought to be caused by deficiencies in the eggs, or ovum.
In terms of maternal health after 40 Obstetricians report an increase in pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes which can have a negative effect on pregnancy.
Placental problems are also reported to occur at higher frequencies in mothers past the age of 40.
These complications range from mildly concerning, such as placental hemotomas which can cause spotting throughout pregnancy, to severe and life threatening such as placental abruption, which is an early detachment of the placenta from the uterine wall.
For all these reasons mothers over 40 fall into a high risk category. High risk pregnancies in general have a higher incident of C-section vs. natural vaginal birth. This is no different for mothers over the age of 40.
Pregnancy over 40 does have higher rates of birth defects. One of the most common birth defects linked to maternal age is Down Syndrome.
At the age of 40 1 in 100 babies born to mothers over 40 will be affected and at age 45 the rate of Down Syndrome babies jumps to 1 in 30.
The frequency rate of other birth defects likewise increases. Most of these birth defects are caused by chromosomal problems.
Low birth weight is a real problem as well. Smaller babies have difficulty thriving after birth, are more susceptible to illness and don’t hit developmental milestones as quickly.
Moms over 40 also tend to experience the premature birth of their babies. This means baby comes before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Premature babies are not fully cooked yet, and while advances in medical care enable many of these tiny infants to survive, the health cost of premature birth can be high.
Still birth is 2-3 times more likely for babies whose moms are over 40.
The rate of multiple babies also goes way up.
After the age of 40 the body can see the fallow state of menopause on the horizon. In an effort to make use of all the eggs it has left the ovaries will release multiple sets of eggs each month.
Adding insult to injury, in addition to the increased risks of pregnancy posed to both mother and child, women over 40 have a much more difficult time getting pregnant than women in their 20’s and 30’s.
This is because women at age 40, or there about, enter a stage of the female fertility cycle known as perimenopause. This is means the body is beginning to wind down in terms of its fertility.
Perimenopause is the opening act of menopause. There are certain changes in the reproductive cycle that make getting pregnant more of a challenge. For example, periods can become irregular or the libido drops way off the map.
At this point the ovum released might not be fully mature, perhaps the ovaries skip the month and don’t release an egg at all, or maybe the eggs just aren’t viable.
Whatever the reason, women over 40 will find it much more difficult to conceive. Many are only able to do so with the help of medical treatments. The good news is that with the many advances made in recent decades fertility medicine is not as iffy as it once was.
If you are about to embark on the amazing journey of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood you need to put together a dream medical team.
Your medical team should consist of the following individuals: your doctor or midwife, possibly a fertility specialist, doula, prenatal educator and postpartum care givers.
When choosing your health care provider, your doctor or midwife in particular, ask yourself these questions:
If the answers to these questions are a yes in every instance then you have yourself a great doctor or midwife.
With all the hard truths of pregnancy over 40 this last one is a refreshing and welcome reality. You can have a blissful pregnancy and a perfectly whole and healthy child.
You should keep in mind the advice given to all pregnant women regardless of age:
Eat well, stop vices or bad habits like drug use, smoking or alcohol consumption, don’t change the kitty litter box, get the best quality prenatal care, get plenty of rest, exercise regularly and take a good pre-natal vitamin.
Parenthood is rewarding and challenging at any age. Don’t give up on your baby dreams just because the road might be a bit rockier than anticipated.
The sacrifices made for your children are worth it at any age, even when these difficulties arise before your baby has arrived.
And that concludes this article about pregnancy over 40. I hope it has been useful.