Forty may be the new 20 in terms of lifestyle. Your ovaries, however, didn’t get the memo. Getting pregnant in your late 30s is a viable goal, but just as you’re unsure whether you can still rock a miniskirt, there’s some degree of uncertainty about getting pregnant now. And just like you might look killer in that miniskirt, you won't know until you try. Educating yourself about potential challenges is the first step.
Getting pregnant in your late 30s is feasible, but you face certain obstacles. According to the American Congress of Obstetrics and Gynecology, a woman’s fertility begins to decrease at age 32, and that decline becomes more pronounced around age 37. That means it might be harder to get pregnant now than it was in your 20s. While your body released eggs like clockwork in your 20s, ovulation might slow down as you age and your eggs become harder to fertilize. Other gynecological issues, like fibroids or endometriosis, can also make it challenging to become pregnant at this age.
The risk of developing pregnancy complications increases with age. According to the American Pregnancy Association, women over the age of 35 have a 20 to 35 percent chance of pregnancy ending in miscarriage. Your risk of developing high blood pressure or gestational diabetes is also greater than that of younger women, says the Mayo Clinic. And as you get older, the odds of having a baby with a genetic abnormality increase.
Prepping for Pregnancy
Because you're in a time crunch, being diligent about pre-pregnancy health is crucial. Ob-gyn Dr. Mark DeFrancesco tells Parenting magazine that babies of obese women are at elevated risk of birth defects, so getting to a healthy weight should be a focus now. He also suggests avoiding fish high in mercury (such as swordfish, king mackerel and tuna) when you're trying to conceive. If you smoke, now's the time to quit. Schedule an appointment with your doctor now to talk about fertility testing and taking prenatal vitamins while you work on conceiving. While younger women are advised to try to conceive for one year before seeking fertility counseling, experts suggest that women over 35 seek this support after six months, says WomensHealth.gov.
As you wait for your pregnancy test to show that telltale plus sign, think about what will happen in coming months. In addition to the flurry of ultrasounds and screenings that are typically recommended for pregnant women, your doctor will likely advise you to undergo genetic testing, including an amniocentesis, a test that screens for chromosomal disorders. This procedure is usually performed between 15 and 20 weeks into pregnancy and is recommended for women over 35, according to Stanford Children's Health. Your doctor should also talk to you about recognizing the signs of miscarriage and and your likelihood of requiring a cesarean section delivery. A 2007 National Institutes of Health study found that older women are much more likely to deliver this way than younger women, even after uncomplicated pregnancies.