Having a baby in your forties is a decision that requires some thought and a little planning. Whether it’s your first child at age forty or if you’ve decided to expand your family once again, having a baby in the fourth decade of life is a journey that comes with a few challenges.
Right now the United States is in the midst of a baby bust. Birth rates have been falling for the past few years in every single age group of women. Except one. Women in their forties have been bucking this trend and the last few years have seen a rise in the pregnancy rates of this age group. That’s according to government statistics released in 2018.
The good news about having a pregnancy in your forties is that you are much more likely to have greater financial stability, emotional maturity and a more settled personal and professional life. More women are also successfully choosing to have kids later in life with advancements in the areas of prenatal care, maternal health and reproductive techniques like in-vitro fertilization (IVF).
However, there are some downsides to having a child later in life and having a baby in your forties comes with a number of challenges including:
- Decreasing fertility: As women go past the third decade of life and into the fourth, one of the biggest barriers to pregnancy is a decline in fertility. Many women in their 40’s have no problem getting pregnant but statistically speaking, at this time in life women are less likely to become pregnant and more likely to need the aid of fertility treatments when trying to conceive
- Ongoing medical conditions: A natural part of getting older means chronic health problems like diabetes or high blood pressure may start to crop up. Any pregnancy with these conditions adds a greater chance of complications.
- An increased risk of pregnancy complications: One of the biggest drawbacks of pregnancy for women in their late thirties or forties is the increased risk of pregnancy complications such as:
- Premature labor
- Preeclampsia (developing high blood pressure while pregnant)
- Gestational diabetes
- Cesarean birth
None of these risks are absolute and there is no assumption that all women will be faced with any of these complications. However, studies show that there is an increased rate of pregnancy complications for women in their 40’s.
So here are a number of steps you can take to help ensure that you have the healthiest pregnancy possible:
- A pre-pregnancy checkup – see your doctor before you start trying to conceive. This is the single most important thing you can do. The older you are, the more important this step becomes. A pre-conception appointment can help you get your medical health in order before becoming pregnant. Your healthcare provider will go over items like:
- Medications review – a review of medications or supplements that you’re taking to ensure that they’re compatible with pregnancy
- BMI check – women with a normal BMI (19-25) have a greater chance of becoming pregnant
- A general health review – for women with conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or an over-active thyroid, now is the time to make sure that they’re under control. Your doctor can help with this.
Lastly, start doing all the small healthy things that many of us put off. Factors like healthy eating, getting enough exercise on a daily basis and giving up on habits like smoking, drinking or recreational drug use.
The number of women having babies in their forties is on the rise and proper prenatal care is key to having a happy, healthy and successful pregnancy.
Centers for disease control. Vital Statistics Rapid Release: Births provisional data for 2017. Date: May 2018.