Chances of conceiving naturally as you age
Fertility declines with age. Most women are not able to get pregnant between 5 and 10 years before menopause.
While stories about women giving birth in their 50s, 60s, and even 70s make for good headlines, these pregnancies are usually accomplished with donor eggs and in vitro fertilization (IVF). There is no set oldest age when you can get pregnant naturally, but fertility starts to decline as you age. You're usually not able to get pregnant between 5 and 10 years before menopause.
You're born with all of the eggs you'll ever have. As you get older, the number of eggs you have decreases. They are also more likely to have abnormalities. Additionally, the older you are, the more likely you are to develop disorders that can make you less likely to get pregnant, such as endometriosis. By the age of 45, you're not likely to get pregnant naturally.
After one year of trying, your chances of getting pregnant by age are:
- 85% if you're under 30
- 75% at 30
- 66% at 35
- 44% at 40
What are the risks of getting pregnant when you’re older?
The medical term for women who get pregnant after age 35 is advanced maternal age (AMA), and it comes with additional risks for you and your baby. If you're thinking about getting pregnant after 35, consider talking to your doctor about the additional risks, including:
- Multiple babies
- Birth defects
- Pregnancy loss
- High blood pressure
- Premature birth and low birthweight
Most pregnant women over the age of 35 will have a healthy pregnancy and baby. However, you may need specialized care, such as:
- Counseling before you get pregnant to discuss risks
- Earlier and more frequent prenatal visits
- Birth defect screening, testing, and counseling
- Meeting with a specialist to discuss age-related risks to you and your baby
- Management of your existing health problems in coordination with your other healthcare providers
- Close monitoring of your baby's growth and development
- Early screening for and treatment of gestational diabetes and hypertension
- Planned delivery to avoid the need for C-section, if possible
To decrease your chances of complications:
- Don't smoke.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Don't drink alcohol or use illegal drugs.
- Manage your weight gain.
- Stay active.
- Limit your caffeine before conception and during pregnancy.
- Avoid exposure to infections such as rubella.
- Avoid foods that are dangerous during pregnancy, such as undercooked meat.
Getting pregnant when you’re older
While it may be more difficult, you can still get pregnant when you're older. Fertility depends on your ovarian function and your overall health. If you're ovulating regularly and have good eggs, you'll probably get pregnant within a year through sex alone. You can visit your doctor early in the process to test your ovarian function and find out if your odds of conceiving naturally are good.
If they are, you can try the "gunshot" method in the beginning. This involves having sex every other day during the middle third of your cycle. Your doctor can help you figure out when this critical time of your cycle happens. If you try the gunshot method for 6 months without success, you may need to start looking into other options such as IVF.
Benefits of being an older mom
Although it can be harder to get pregnant when you're older, there are also some advantages to being an older mom, for both you and your baby. These include:
Healthier preschoolers with better language skills. Preschoolers with older mothers are healthier overall. They have increased immunization rates, fewer hospitalizations, and fewer unintentional injuries than those born to younger mothers. They also tend to have better language skills and verbal development.
Increased intelligence when you're older. Women who gave birth after age 35 scored higher on tests of thinking and verbal memory when they were ages 41 to 92. Additionally, women who used contraceptives for over 10 years had better problem-solving skills and higher executive functioning skills when they were older.
Better parenting skills. It's no secret that you probably have more patience than you did when you were younger. Older moms are less likely to discipline their children harshly or yell at them. They are better at setting boundaries as well. Children with older mothers tend to have fewer behavioral, social, and emotional issues.