Is Pregnancy Safe After Age 40?

Is Pregnancy Safe After Age 40?

Having a baby and starting a family can be a wonderful experience, but if you’re a woman over 40, pregnancy is considered high-risk. So the question becomes: If you’re over 40, can you have a safe and healthy pregnancy, for both you and your baby?

Experienced and board-certified OB/GYN Dr. Hany H Ahmed specializes in high-risk pregnancies, and he can provide you and your baby with the necessary care to see you both safely through your nine-month journey. 

Here’s what you need to know about the risks and possibilities of having a baby after 40.

Later-age pregnancies

While women are generally told to have children before age 35, the number of first-time mothers after age 40 has grown. 

In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that the number of first-time births among women 40-44 more than doubled between 1990 and 2012, the only age category where the birth rate actually increased during that time. 

This may be due, in part, to the advances in fertility technology that can help circumvent problems normally associated with later-age pregnancies.

What are some challenges of pregnancy over age 40?

Getting pregnant over age 40 comes with a number of challenges.

Fertility

According to the Office on Women’s Health, a woman’s fertility rate decreases significantly after she turns 35, and one-third of couples trying to conceive after that point experience fertility issues. That’s because with increased age comes:

In addition, the number of egg cells (oocytes) also decreases significantly after age 35. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) indicates the number drops from 25,000 oocytes at 37 to just 1,000 at 51, making it harder to get pregnant.

Fortunately, 85% to 90% of couples dealing with infertility can be treated with low-tech options like medication or surgery, while under 5% use assisted reproductive technologies like in-vitro fertilization (IVF), egg freezing, or sperm banks. 

Of those receiving any fertility treatment, just under 50% have a baby.

In general, it’s recommended that if you haven’t conceived after six months of well-timed intercourse without birth control after age 35, you should seek the help of a fertility specialist.

Health conditions

As you get older, your risk increases for getting diabetes, being overweight or obese, or developing a heart condition, all of which could affect your pregnancy.

Even so, because of technology advances surrounding fertility, pregnancy, and delivery, it’s possible to have a baby safely after age 40, but it’s considered high-risk. Dr. Ahmed monitors both you and the baby closely for the following:

Ectopic (outside the womb) pregnancies are also a risk, and they sometimes happen when IVF is used.

Labor and delivery

Vaginal delivery may be less of an option after the age of 40 for a number of reasons:

If you’re over 40 and planning to deliver vaginally, talk to Dr. Ahmed and your partner and come up with a backup plan in case that’s not possible. Dr. Ahmed may also decide to induce your labor at 39 weeks to decrease the likelihood of a stillbirth.

How to have a safe pregnancy after age 40

Because you’re at a higher risk of developing pregnancy complications, Dr. Ahmed sees you more frequently in the office and provides additional scans and tests to ensure that both you and the baby are healthy.

You can help by making sure to eat healthy meals and exercise regularly, avoid tobacco and alcohol, limit your caffeine intake, and stay in close communication with the doctor.

If you’re over age 40 and are looking to become pregnant, it’s best to talk with Dr. Ahmed beforehand to assess your risks and to establish a viable medical plan. Give our Houston, Texas, office a call at 713-489-3348 to set up a consultation, or book online with us today.

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