How old is too old to have a baby?
The desire to have a child can come at any age. And then a logical question arises - how much is this possible? Pregnant women over 35 are labeled as “old mothers in labor”. Although a successful pregnancy after 35 is now the most common occurrence. But what if a woman is over 40 or 45? In fact, for some people after a certain age it is easier to conceive a child, for others it is more difficult.
Many factors play a role here, including current health status and proximity to menopause. Feskov Human Reproductive Group knows everything about such moments. As well as about effective reproductive methods (IVF, surrogacy, donation), which help every family to become happy parents.
Age and successful pregnancy
The truth is that there is a biological clock and it is ticking. It starts during the first menstrual period and stops when menopause comes. Over time, the chances of a successful pregnancy diminish. As the supply of eggs and their quality decreases, and the level of hormones also changes.
Puberty starts with 300-500,000 eggs. This figure drops to 25,000 at 37 years old. And it continues to decline to 1000 by 51.
The likelihood of getting pregnant naturally after a year of trying:
- up to 30 years old - 85%;
- 30 years old - 75%;
- 35 years old - 66%;
- 40 years old - 44%.
It turns out that from 20 to 30 years of age the chances of getting pregnant are 1 in 4. And by the age of 40, only 1 woman in 10 will be able to do this.
Even women after using ART have a tendency to decrease live births with age:
- up to 35 years old - 31%;
- 35–37 years old - 24%;
- 38-40 years old - 16%;
- 41-42 - 8%;
- over 43 - only 3%.
Thus, whatever one may say, but age matters if you want to have a baby. Although everything is, in fact, individual.
When is it too late?
Menopause is the termination of the menstrual cycle (for a period of one year). Most women reach this period at the age of 40-50. The average age of menopause is 51 years. So, it is quite possible to accidentally become pregnant at 50 years old.
It certainly won't be easy. But the fact is that this is possible.
Before the menstrual cycle stops completely, there is a preliminary time - perimenopause. As the intervals between periods increase, they become irregular. Typically, women enter perimenopause around the age of 45. Some even at 35. During this time, pregnancy is still possible, but more difficult to achieve.
Of course, everyone has heard incredible stories about women in old age who successfully conceived and gave birth. For example, a 74-year-old woman in labor from India who gave birth to twin girls in 2019.
What is important to understand about stories like these is that they go through hormone therapy and IVF. And besides, this is a rare exception, not the norm.
Most women after 45 years of age cannot get pregnant without the help of IVF and other ART technologies. Although, ASRM states that a woman of any age can get pregnant with the help of medicine. Provided she has a healthy uterus. Even if her ovaries are no longer working.
What risks await pregnancy after 35?
Many women give birth after 35. However, the older the age, the more risks arise for both the mother and the child:
- Infertility. As you approach menopause, it will become more difficult to conceive. Due to the decrease in the number and quality of eggs, it is more difficult to fertilize them. In turn, it is more difficult for a fertilized egg to implant into the wall of the uterus.
- Miscarriage. When the quality of the eggs decreases, the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth increases. Termination of pregnancy is also possible due to existing medical conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Chromosomal pathologies. The risk of having a baby with Down syndrome increases dramatically in older women. At 20 years old, the chance is 1 in 1480, and at 40 - 1 in 85!
- Multiple pregnancies. Which is often associated with hormonal changes or the use of IVF. While this may seem like a blessing, however, twins or triplets immediately increase the burden on the body.
- Gestational diabetes that occurs during pregnancy. Because of this, the baby can be very large, which is fraught with injury at birth. In addition, the complication contributes to an increase in blood pressure for the mother and the risk of premature birth for the baby.
- Preeclampsia or high blood pressure is common in women over 40.
- Low baby weight. The existing health problems of the mother can lead to the premature birth of the baby with low body weight. Which entails additional complications.
- Cesarean section. The older the woman, the higher the likelihood of surgery: 20 years - 26%, 35 years - 40%, 40 years - 48%.
With constant medical supervision and careful attention to health, such risks can be minimized.
Questions to the doctor
Even taking risks into account, women continue to give birth after age 35. For example, in the United States, the number of pregnant women in this age category is as much as 17%! Therefore, it will be advisable to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss in detail all the benefits and risks involved.
What questions can you ask your doctor:
- Conditions that may affect your chances of getting pregnant and carrying your baby before term?
- What can improve fertility? What kind of lifestyle changes: diet, sports?
- What secrets or treatments will help you conceive a child faster?
- When should you seek reproductive care in case of possible infertility?
- What supplements other than prenatal vitamins can improve fertility? And are there such at all?
- If it is impossible to conceive a child naturally, what methods and procedures of ART are recommended? How much is it?
- What types of prenatal diagnostics are available to detect chromosomal abnormalities? What are the risks of diagnosis?
- What treatment options are possible when pathologies are detected?
Also, you can ask if other analyzes would be helpful. For example, a blood test for hormones, thyroid function, and ovarian reserve (the number of eggs available). Other tests or examinations will help identify abnormalities or damage to the reproductive organs themselves (uterus, fallopian tubes).
The couple may need to meet with a geneticist to discuss the risks of carrying a child with a genetic disability.
Other ways to have a baby
In any case, no matter how old a woman is, it is always a good idea to visit a doctor and discuss all the risks and opportunities.
However, age does not mean that you cannot use other methods to expand the family:
- IVF with donor eggs. The body of the expectant mother will be prepared for pregnancy with hormone therapy. Instead of the traditional extraction of eggs and their subsequent fertilization and embryo transfer, an embryo is used, which is created from donor eggs fertilized with the partner's sperm or donor.
- Surrogacy. To become a real mom, you can use services of a surrogate mother. This process includes the selection of a surrogate, a decision on how pregnancy will be achieved (IVF with own or donor egg, partner's or donor's sperm). And then the observance of legal procedures for registering the child for the intended parents.
- Freezing oocytes. If a woman is under 35 and wants to wait with having children, she can freeze her eggs. When eggs are frozen at 30 and used at 40, the chances of having a healthy baby are determined by the age at which they were frozen, not the current age.
- Embryo adoption. Regardless of who goes through the IVF cycle - a mother or a surrogate, adopting a ready-made embryo is also a worthy option. Since, usually, excess embryos are frozen. And if they are not used by a couple in subsequent ART procedures, they can be passed on to another family.
- Adoption of a child. There are a huge number of children in different countries, from babies to adolescents, who are waiting for their parents through the foster family system. Which can also be considered as a noble option.
Thus, for those wishing to actually become parents, there are many options and solutions that depend on personal preference, health and financial capabilities.
What else is important?
The basic rule when trying to conceive a child is - if during a year of constant efforts the pregnancy has not come, it is advisable to go to the doctor. But, with age, everything accelerates and only 6 months of fruitless attempts to get pregnant at the age of 35+ are enough to already seek help.
All physical and mental health problems must be discussed in consultation with a specialist. Since, in order to carry a pregnancy, a woman must be in her best shape. This includes optimal weight gain, which is achieved through specific diet and exercise. As well as giving up all bad habits, such as drugs, smoking and drinking alcohol.
As soon as the desired happens, it is necessary to regularly come to the ordered appointments to the doctor. To be able to timely identify any issues before they develop into more serious problems for the health of the mother and the future baby.
Perhaps, additional examinations, tests, ultrasound and medical appointments will be prescribed. At first glance, it may seem that this is too much. However, doctors are doing everything to protect the mother and child.
Specialists at Feskov Human Reproductive Group argue that while age does matter when it comes to fertility, things are not so simple. The risks must be taken into account, but the uniqueness of every woman and every couple must also be considered. Infertility and pregnancy complications can occur at any age.
On the other hand, even at an older age, you can go through a healthy pregnancy and a successful delivery. And even if it seems like it's too late, there are always ways out and solutions to help expand the family.
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