Having a Baby Over 40

by Maryann DePietro

Having a baby over 40 has become more common in recent years. Some woman may delay motherhood until after 40 for a variety of reasons. Other women may be adding to their existing family or conceive accidentally after 40. Having a baby at any age can cause both excitement and some anxiety. Women over 40 may have additional things to consider.

Facts

Pregnancy in women over 40 continues to be more common, in part due to advances in assisted reproduction techniques. Although fertility does decline steadily with age, the degree to which it declines varies greatly among women. When a woman does become pregnant over 40, early prenatal care is essential. Because women who are slightly older may have a higher rate of pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes, close monitoring is important to diagnose and treat problems early.

Considerations

Because women over 40 may have a harder time getting pregnant without assistance, there are things they can do to increase their chances of conceiving and having a health baby. Being overweight may decrease fertility, therefore maintaining a healthy weight is essential. Quitting smoking may also increase fertility and help decrease the possibility of a low birth weight baby. Women over 40 may also be more likely to have irregular menstrual cycles and ovulation may be difficult to predict. Ovulation predictor kits may help increase chances of conception. Taking certain vitamins, such as folic acid, while trying to conceive and during pregnancy may reduce certain birth defects.

Options

Not all women over 40 will need assistance having a baby. However for those who do, there are several options to choose from. Fertility drugs can help stimulate the ovaries and increase egg production increasing the possibility of fertilization. Reproductive techniques, such as in-vitro fertilization and artificial insemination may also be an option to help women over 40 have a baby. For women over 40 who may have decreased egg production, the use of donor eggs is also an option to have a baby.

Risks

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, although many women over the age of 40 have healthy babies, there are some increased risks. Women over 40 have a higher chance of having a baby with some genetic disorders and birth defects, such as Down syndrome. Various tests during pregnancy, such as an amniocentesis, are available to screen for some genetic disorders. There is also an increased chance of developing pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes and high blood pressure, although early prenatal care may help treat these problems. The rate of miscarriage also goes up as a woman ages, as well as the rate of premature births. Women over 40 also have a higher rate of delivering by Cesarean section.

Advantages

Having a baby a bit later in life may have advantages. Many women over 40 have had time to develop their careers, obtain financial stability and achieve their goals. By the fourth decade of life, many women have gained both perceptive and insight on the sacrifices of parenthood and are ready to make them. Being slightly older may also add to the appreciation of motherhood. Motherhood later in life may also be an good incentive for a woman to take good care of herself and maintain good health.

About the Author

MaryAnn DePietro has been a professional journalist since 2000, specializing in health, fitness and medical articles. She is also a certified respiratory therapist. Her work has appeared on websites such as eHow and ModernMom and in publications including the “Sacramento Bee, “Press Tribune“ and “Succeed.” DePietro holds a Bachelor of Science in rehabilitation from Penn State University and a degree in respiratory therapy.