Age Is Just A Number: Everything You Have To Know About Pregnancy In Your 40s
Having a baby after the age of 40 is becoming an increasingly popular trend; many women are delaying pregnancy and childbirth until later in their lives for many reasons, including early careers, relationship stability, and financial considerations. In 2018, women in the US aged between 40 and 45 gave birth at a rate of 11.8 babies for every 1,000 women, far higher than the rate 2 to 3 decades ago.
But while this age group seems to be bucking the trend of declining fertility rates, some women are wary about delaying childbirth until their 40s. Here, we’ll discuss all you need to know about pregnancy in your midlife.
Getting Pregnant in your 40s
Although you can get pregnant at any age before you hit menopause, your chances get slimmer with age. As a woman grows older, the number and quality of eggs in her ovaries recedes, impacting her fertility. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the number of eggs in the ovaries drops from about 300,000 – 500,000 during puberty to about 25,000 at age 37. The number drops to a few thousand in your 40s, down to 1,000 at age 51.
Although you can still get pregnant even naturally at this age, most women at this age may require fertility treatments. In general, unlike the required one-year wait in younger women, if you have not conceived after 6 months of well-timed unprotected vaginal intercourse, you should seek fertility treatments, Some of the available fertility treatments include fertility drugs, assisted reproductive technology, and intrauterine insemination.
Pregnancy Risks in your 40s
One thing you may be able to deal with more effectively in your 40s is the emotional changes that come with pregnancy. Pregnancy alters your hormones and emotions, and if you’re dealing with relationship or financial troubles, these emotional problems may be worse. While age is not a cure-all for these problems, age does bring some form of stability and maturity to your life, helping you manage these symptoms more effectively.
In terms of physical health, however, pregnancy in your 40s is somewhat more complicated. While pregnancy at any age may come with significant health risks, these risks are more common in late pregnancies. You are more likely to experience pregnancy complications, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and pre-eclampsia in your 40s than at a younger age. Having regular and more frequent prenatal classes and checks is vital to lowering your risks of these health problems when pregnant in your 40s.
Also, because of the declining quality of eggs in your 40s, women in this age group are more likely to have a baby with genetic problems, particularly Down Syndrome. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, while a 25-year-old woman has a 1 in 1,200 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome, the risk increases to 1 in 100 by age 40. Regular preconception counseling and classes can help you lower the risk of this condition.
Labor and Delivery in your 40s
Labor and delivery do come with several risks across all age groups, but some of these risks may be slightly higher in late pregnancy.
What makes labor and delivery a bit more complicated in your 40s is your overall physical health. For instance, your uterus may not have as much contractile force as that of a younger woman, so you are more likely to have an induction of labor and cesarean section in your 40s. Research shows that the overall risk of cesarean section for every pregnancy is 32%, but this number jumps to 48% for women over 40. However, pelvic exercises, perineal massages, and other healthy lifestyle habits can help to make labor and delivery smoother.
Further, this factor, as well as the loss of vaginal elasticity at this age, could make you prone to perineal injuries in your 40s. Perineal tears often distort the shape, appearance, and tone of your vagina and vulva, and may impair your sex life going forward. This should not discourage you from getting pregnant or having a vaginal birth in your 40s as labiaplasty can easily restore these features. Labiaplasty helps to trim off loose and excess skin and tissue in the vulva and vagina to restore shape and appearance. It also involves tightening the vaginal wall muscles to restore its tone.
Having a baby at 40 is increasingly more common than it used to be, so if you are considering having a baby at 40, you’re not alone. Despite the challenges of conception that come at this age, you can still get pregnant and have a safe delivery. Thanks to modern technology and advanced medical care, the majority of babies born to mothers in their 40s are healthy despite these risks. With good prenatal care and improved personal health, you can lower these risks and have a safe and uneventful pregnancy and delivery.