Getting pregnant at age 38 is typically not as easy as conceiving at a younger age, but it may not be as challenging as you think. Although fewer than 3 percent of women in the U.S. have their first child at age 35 or older, a 2012 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that 40 percent of women in this group have 2 or more children. While fertility declines in your 30s, many women can still get pregnant at this time of their lives.
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Schedule a Preconception Visit
A woman's fertility begins to significantly decline at about age 32 with a more rapid dropoff after age 37, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. While a decrease in the number and quality of eggs in the ovaries explains part of this age-related decline in female fertility, other factors may also be involved. Ovarian surgery, fibroids, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, endometriosis, smoking, pelvic infection or a predisposition to early menopause can all impair fertility. Scheduling a preconception visit with your doctor before trying to get pregnant helps identify potential obstacles. Treatments may be available to get you on the right path to a healthy pregnancy.
Prepare Your Body
After your preconception visit, you should have an idea of what actions to take to optimize your chance of becoming pregnant. A healthy body is essential. Smoking impairs your fertility and is likely to reduce your ability to conceive a baby. A September 2013 guideline from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility also advises women who are trying to get pregnant to avoid excess alcohol intake -- more than 2 drinks per day -- as it may interfere with your ability to conceive. Limiting your caffeine intake to no more than 250 mg per day, avoiding illicit drugs and keeping your weight in a healthy range are also important to optimize your ability to conceive.
Have Some Patience
The authors of a January 2004 article published in "Obstetrics & Gynecology" reported that roughly 82 percent of couples involving a woman age 35 to 39 were able to conceive naturally within 12 menstrual cycles. Among couples who were unable to get pregnant within the first year, 51 percent were able to conceive in the second year of trying -- if the father-to-be was age 35 or younger. Given that your 38-year-old body may not conceive as quickly as your 20-something body, remind yourself to stay positive if you don't get pregnant as quickly as you had hoped.
When to Take Further Action
Although you can conceive naturally after the age of 35, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends you still see a doctor if you are not pregnant after 6 months of trying to conceive. Fertility specialists are available for testing and evaluation to help overcome obstacles. If nothing is discovered that can be treated directly, you can attempt conception with assisted reproductive technologies, such as ovulation induction, in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection. However, these procedures do have some risks and may not be an option for some couples.
- Obstetrics and Gynecology: Increased Infertility With Age in Men and Women
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Fertility of Men and Women Aged 15–44 Years in the United States -- National Survey of Family Growth, 2006–2010
- American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Age-Related Fertility Decline
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Patient's Fact Sheet, Smoking and Infertility
- Fertility and Sterility: Optimizing Natural Fertility -- A Committee Opinion