Becoming pregnant after age 40 carries with it some special health risks, but if you're among the women considered of "advance maternal age," you're not alone. According to the March of Dimes, one in five women in the U.S. has her first child after age 35. Your chances of pregnancy complications are higher if your first pregnancy occurs after 40, compared to women who had healthy pregnancies when they were younger.
Getting pregnant without the help of a fertility specialist when you're older takes longer for many women. Your eggs may be lower in quality than they were when you were younger, and you may not ovulate as regularly as you once did. If it's taking you and your partner awhile to conceive, talk with your doctor about knowing when you're ovulating, so you can time your attempts better. If several months have passed without any success, talk with your doctor about your options. About half of women 40 and older have fertility problems.
Many women after age 40 need the help of a fertility specialist to become pregnant. One common method is known as ovulation induction, and it involves the use of medications to increase the number of healthy, mature eggs produced by the ovaries, which in turn increases your chances of conception. You also may benefit from in-vitro fertilization, which involves the extraction of eggs from the mother and uniting them with sperm in a laboratory. The fertilized eggs are then implanted back in the mother's uterus.
If you're older than 40, chances are you're established in a career. So being pregnant and taking some time off when you have a baby can cause a great deal of concern among many women. Familiarize yourself with your employer's maternity policy and keep an open line of communication with your employer about your due date, time you want to take off after the delivery and any other concerns you might have about doctor appointments or other matters during your pregnancy.
Your risk of a miscarriage increases with age. After age 40, your risk of a miscarriage is more than 35 percent. The big worry for many older mothers is the risk of birth defects and conditions such as Down syndrome. While the chances of problem pregnancies do go up as you get older, remember that many women in their late 30s and 40s who take care of their health and follow healthy guidelines while pregnant can have healthy babies.
Healthy Pregnancy Tips
Follow your doctor's advice about taking prenatal vitamins, avoiding alcohol, controlling diabetes and blood pressure and avoiding smoking and second-hand smoke. Eat healthy foods, but avoid such things as fish that can be high in mercury, as well as undercooked meat, which can be a source of toxoplasmosis, an infection associated with birth defects.