10 Myths About Pregnancy in Your 40’s
Women are becoming mothers for the first time at a later age. We see it when celebrities over 40 announce their pregnancies, we hear about it when friends and acquaintances tout their success with a fertility specialist, and we read about it in the latest statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, births among women ages 40-44 have been rising steadily since the early 1980’s, even as the overall U.S. birth rate fell.
Does this mean that getting pregnant in your 40’s is a breeze? Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as one would hope. However, there are options available if you want to get pregnant in your 40’s.
Many families who struggle with infertility may pursue adoption, donor egg options, and fertility treatments to build their families. With the conflicting information out there about overcoming infertility, it’s good to separate fact from fiction.
1. Getting pregnant in your 40’s is easy and happens all the time.
Although it can feel like a lot of older women are having babies, the truth is that once a woman reaches 40, there is only a 5 percent chance of her getting pregnant each month. This is compared to a 20-30 percent chance for women under 40. Egg quality starts to decline once a woman is 30 and accelerates in her late 30’s. By the time she is 40 years old, though it is possible to get pregnant naturally, the chances of doing so would have decreased significantly.
2. Women are the only ones that have fertility issues.
Men can suffer from fertility issues as well. These include low sperm count, health problems, poor lifestyle choices, and other factors. There is an equal chance with infertility in either partner if the couple is in their 20’s. For couples with a female partner in her late 30s or 40s, the chance of infertility due to egg quality rises dramatically.
3. Celebrities are having kids at age 48! It must be possible.
Geena Davis had twins at age 48, Halle Berry had a baby at 46, and Kelly Preston had hers at age 47. Though it is possible, it is statistically unlikely that older celebrities are having children without help. Many, if not most, have their own infertility journeys that may include intervention of different kinds. It is important not to compare your own experiences with others.
4. Using your own eggs is the only option.
No, you do not only have to use your own eggs to have a successful pregnancy. According to the medical journal Fertility and Sterility, 40-year old women treated for infertility have a 25 percent chance of achieving pregnancy using their own eggs. The number drops to 10 percent by age 43 and by age 44 it becomes 1.6 percent.
This is where donor eggs come in. Women at age 40 who use donor eggs have a 45 percent chance of giving birth. And the good news is that the high success rate for those using egg donation to achieve pregnancy does not decline with age.
5. It doesn’t matter what the man’s age is when trying to conceive.
Actually, it does. Though a man’s age is not as big of a factor in fertility as compared to a woman’s, health issues in older men can contribute to fertility challenges and increased risks. Also, a study published in Molecular Psychiatry found a direct link between paternal age and an increased risk in autism and schizophrenia. Autism rates were 28 percent higher among children born to dads over 40 years of age than among those born to dads in their 20s. The rate increases to 66 percent higher among children born to dads over 50.
(Although there are increased risks with older dads, the decrease in the quality of a woman’s eggs however, contributes heavily to chromosomal abnormalities. A 25-year-old woman has a 1/1000 chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome. However, those chances increase to 1/30 if using her own eggs by the time she is 44 years old.)
6. Being healthy and fit means having a baby won’t be a problem.
Unfortunately, just because you exercise regularly, run marathons, and eat organic does not mean you are immune from fertility issues. Eating nutritious foods and living a lifestyle to maintain a healthy weight can boost your fertility and help balance ovulatory disorders, but it does not guarantee that your eggs will remain healthy.
7. If I’m starting menopause, I can’t have a baby.
For women beginning perimenopause, which includes the months or years preceding menopause, a pregnancy may still be possible. The quality of a woman’s egg during this time does decrease and the chances of conceiving sharply declines. A pregnancy will depend on where your body is at the perimenopausal stage, which can last 10 years. Couples are encouraged to undergo basic fertility testing if you have approached this phase.
8. Since older mothers are less likely to conceive, they’re less likely to have twins.
Actually, older mothers are more likely to conceive twins. As a woman ages, her follicle stimulating hormone, responsible for the growth of eggs in the ovary, increases. Higher FSH levels are associated with declining fertility; the follicles start to work overtime to release more eggs to compensate for lowered fertility. These higher levels of FSH can then cause two or more eggs to release, which can result in twins. The likelihood of conceiving twins naturally rises from 1/80 in a 25-year-old to 1/40 in a 42-year-old.
9. Your family has a fertile history, so you shouldn’t have any problems with fertility.
Although there is a genetic component to ovarian function and a correlation between your mother’s and grandmother’s ability to conceive at an older age, this is just one small factor in the fertility picture. If there is a family history of early menopause though, this will raise your chances of encountering a problem trying to get pregnant over the age of 40. Your fertility potential and egg supply affect you individually.
10. Having a baby with a donor egg doesn’t make you the biological mom.
For those on the fertility journey, egg donation may not feel appropriate because you are afraid that it doesn’t make you the biological mom. It is a fact that the egg donor is a genetic donor who provides the egg cell and half of the DNA to create the baby. However, it is also true that the woman who intends to parent and raise the baby is the true mother! She carries the pregnancy and provides the biological environment for am embryo to survive and thrive. Motherhood is a role that we can choose, regardless of how that child comes to us.
Whether you are expecting naturally or with help from fertility specialists, the Motherhood Center for is here to help with all your prenatal and postpartum needs!
Original article by Heidi Hayes | Executive Vice President
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