Understanding the Risks Involved in Having a Baby Later in Life

It’s not uncommon for many women to start thinking more seriously about childbirth as they get older. But while having a healthy pregnancy at an older age is possible for many women, it’s important to be mindful that it can be significantly more difficult and involve a number of risks. For many women, fertility begins to decrease slowly around age 32 or so, and then much more rapidly around age 37, which can make for a challenging experience in many ways. Read on to learn about some of the challenges women may face as they try to get pregnant as they hit their mid-thirties or forties.

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Increased time to conceive: As women get older and their bodies experience typical age-related changes, it often takes them much longer to conceive. Statistics show that while a woman may have a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant during each menstrual cycle when she’s in her twenties, these chances drop to about 15 percent by the time she reaches her mid-thirties, and down to around 5 or 10 percent by age 40. This doesn’t necessarily mean a woman cannot conceive altogether, but the process will typically be more challenging.

Infertility: Women have a harder time conceiving as they age, and may not be able to conceive altogether. It’s believed that somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of couples in the United States struggle with infertility, which is defined as an inability to get pregnant after having frequent, unprotected sex for more than one year. For many women, fertility declines gradually as they age, and then advances more rapidly around age 37.  Many causes contribute to female infertility, such as early menopause, ovulation disorders, age, and other health issues.

You may need to see a fertility specialist: If you’re over age 35 and have tried conceiving for six months without success, it may be time to see a reproductive endocrinologist for help. A reproductive endocrinologist is a fertility specialist who can help you work towards pregnancy by checking your health, making sure your fallopian tubes and eggs are functioning as they should, and recommending treatments like in-vitro fertilization or medication that can encourage ovulation. Your gynecologist should be able to recommend a fertility specialist if you’re interested in exploring this path.

Higher likelihood of complications: When women hit age 40 or so, they are more likely to develop pregnancy-related health complications like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. Not only do these complications pose risks to a woman’s health, they also can contribute to pregnancy-related problems such as birth complications, miscarriage, and issues with the placenta.

Increased risk of miscarriage: After the age of 35 or so, women start to encounter a higher risk of miscarriage. Statistics show that at age 35, a woman’s risk of miscarriage is around 20 percent, but jumps much higher to around 80 percent by age 45.

Many women can still conceive and carry healthy pregnancies in their late thirties or forties, but the process is often far more challenging than it may be for younger women, given the issues we mentioned above, such as increased time to conceive, fertility issues, health risks, and more. If you have concerns about getting pregnant later in life and would like to speak with a physician, call Arizona OB/GYN Affiliates (AOA) at 602-343-6174 or visit www.aoafamily.com.