Birth at 40

By Nora Heston Tarte

More women over 40 are having babies, letting the biological clock tick a bit longer than ever before. With medical intervention, it’s not uncommon to have a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and recovery after 40, however, it’s not the same as doing it at 20 or 30 either. It’s important to know what to expect.

Getting pregnant is sometimes the biggest hurdle. Fertility falls drastically after age 40. By age 43, only 10 percent of woman treated for infertility are likely to get pregnant using their own eggs. At age 44, it plummets to 1.6 percent. Once pregnant, rates of miscarriage are higher, too.

If a pregnancy remains viable, chromosomal disorders become more common, as does Down Syndrome and the possibility of giving birth to multiples (which may be a plus for those who desire twins). There is also a higher rate of complications including gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.

“Women at age 40 generally have more co-morbidities, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, which pose significant risks for the health of the pregnancy,” says Eugenia Hurlbut, D.O. with Gill OB/GYN Medical Group, Inc. “In order to reduce these risks, the woman should try to maintain a normal weight with a well-balanced diet, regular daily exercise, and have all pre-existing conditions well-controlled.”

Women over 40 are at higher risk for developing these conditions during pregnancy even if they didn’t have them before.

Despite health concerns, a 2016 study found that for the first time in 70 years more women over 40 are having babies than those under 20. And some studies suggest babies born to older mothers are happier and healthier in the long run. Having a baby at 40 is, in some ways, easier when the rising cost of raising a family and the portion of women enjoying careers before settling down are factored in.

Attentive medical care can sideline complications for women over 40 with proper management of preexisting conditions and additional testing. While not all outcomes can be changed, knowledge breeds power.