Fertility Over 40
Female fertility begins to decline after age 30, drops quite rapidly around age 37, and sharply declines after age 40. A 40-year-old woman has a 5 percent chance of conceiving each month and women aged 40-44 who do get pregnant have a 34 percent chance of miscarriage.
Due to these factors, if you are over 40, you should see a fertility specialist if you are unable to get pregnant within six months on your own.
Fertility facts for women over 40
As you get older, your eggs are aging and declining in number, and the eggs you do have are more likely to have genetic abnormalities. These genetic abnormalities are known to increase the risk of miscarriage, birth defects, and health problems in children.
When an egg with abnormal chromosomes gets fertilized, it is more likely to be miscarried. Half of all miscarriages are due to abnormal chromosomes. A child born to a 40-year-old mother has a 1/66 chance of having a chromosomal abnormality. In comparison, a 30-year-old mother has a 1/385 chance of having a child with genetic abnormalities.
When a child is born with a chromosomal abnormality, that child is more likely to be born with a birth defect or severe medical condition. The most well known of these conditions is Down syndrome. When an embryo has more severe chromosomal abnormalities, implantation cannot even occur and pregnancy becomes impossible.
Due to these factors, if you are trying to get pregnant after 40, you may have a more difficult time conceiving with your own eggs. In vitro fertilization (IVF) with donor eggs is an option that could increase your chance of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.
Age, fertility and menopause
As you get older and approach menopause, your body produces more follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) due to a decrease in response of your ovaries to these hormones. Your menstrual cycles become shorter and eventually stop altogether. By then, your ovaries stop functioning and there are few or no eggs left. This is known as menopause. The average age of menopause is 50.
Other factors can also cause a decrease in the lifespan of your ovaries, making pregnancy after 40 difficult. Factors that speed up the aging of a woman's ovaries and eggs include:
- Smoking cigarettes
- Chemotherapy or radiation from cancer treatment
- Diseases of the ovaries
Pregnancy complications after 40
Pregnancy in women over 40 is considered high-risk. After 40, you face a greater risk for complications in pregnancy such as:
- Gestational diabetes
- Ectopic pregnancy
- Placental problems
- Cesarean delivery
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Age and Fertility. A Guide for Patients.
- IntegraMed: Can We Wait to Get Pregnant? Fertility over 40; Age-Related Infertility; Female Infertility: Tests and Diagnosis
- RESOLVE: The Medical Aspects of Egg Donation
- March of Dimes: Pregnancy after 35