Women are choosing to become mothers later in their lives so the question of fertility after 40 years of age has become a major issue. Unlike earlier generations many women today are following career paths that do not encourage early pregnancies, with the result that they do not decide to have children until they are over 40. There is no exact age when becoming pregnant becomes dangerous but, as you age, getting pregnant may certainly become more difficult. There is, however, no reason that you should not have normal fertility after 40 provided that you are healthy and have good prenatal care.
These concerns for older women are not applicable to mothers who are 30 years or younger, some of which are outlined below.
Infertility. Fertility in women starts to decline from the early 30s onwards. After 40 years old, you can still get pregnant but it may take longer than when you were younger. Male fertility also decreases with age.
One reason for female fertility reduces with age is that ovulation, which is the release of an egg cell by the ovary, occurs less frequently as you grow older. Nor are your eggs fertilized as easily as they would have been in your 20s. Physical problems such as endometriosis and blocked fallopian tubes become more evident in women of 40 years and older.
If you are older and have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for 6 months to no avail, you may have to talk with your primary health care practitioner. He/She can guide you as to the dietary and lifestyle changes you should try to improve your chances of fertility after 40.
Medical and obstetric issues. As you grow older, you have a greater risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. You are also at a higher risk of free radical damage, caused by unpaired destructive molecules in the body which attack other cells, because as you age, the number of free radicals increases if you have not followed a healthy lifestyle. Because childbearing places huge demands on your body, fertility after 40 may be harder and more prone to complications during pregnancy. The best way to address this is to have early and regular visits to your doctor and have some special tests. With this, you are able to spot complications early on and so provide special care to yourself and to your baby.
With a healthy lifestyle and with proper medical care, couples with risk factors can still have normal, healthy babies. They just have to be well-informed and discuss with their health provider their plans of having a baby and how they will deal with existing health problems.
Birth defects. Women older than 40 have an increased risk of giving birth to a baby with some form of birth defect. Generally, if you are an older woman you will be tested for genetic disorders and other medical issues prior to pregnancy. If you are already pregnant, the embryo will be given the same tests. These tests, along with your medical history, will help determine if you are at risk of bearing a baby with birth defects.
You and your partner will be given genetic counseling by a doctor or a genetic counselor. Genetic counseling will help you make an informed choice, given the risks, whether it is safe for you to get pregnant or if it is safe to continue the pregnancy you already have.
Your naturopathic physician specializing in preconception care and fertility may suggest certain lifestyle and dietary chances to help you become ready for fertility after 40. She may suggest that you:
Pregnancy can be exciting and rewarding especially when you finally give birth to your baby. There doesn’t have to be a barrier to fertility after 40 or to have a healthy and happy pregnancy.
Iva Keene is co-founder and director of Natural-Fertility-Prescription.com. She has been a qualified, accredited Naturopathic Physician for over 13 years, holds a Bachelor's degree in Health Science and a Masters degree in Reproductive Medicine. Since founding NFP in 2008, Iva's articles, videos, guides and reports have reached over 1.3 million people. Iva has dedicated her professional life to supporting couples on their path to parenthood with scientifically grounded information, protocols and coaching around preconception care, natural infertility treatments and integrative reproductive health.