Pregnancy Over 40: The Risks & Rewards

Akinwalere Olaleye
Jan 15, 2024 By Akinwalere Olaleye
Originally Published on Jun 09, 2021
Mothers-to-be over 40 can have an increased risk of high blood pressure.

There are a lot of advantages to having children later in life.

For starters, once you become a mom, you'll already have a wealth of knowledge, confidence in yourself, and life experience to bank on, ready to pass onto the next generation of your family.

Women who delay motherhood usually tend to have a head start on things like saving for college too. And with an older mom or dad, kids sometimes feel more of a connection and are more likely to feel responsible and protective of their parents.

But in addition to the numerous benefits, there are some potential drawbacks and risks if you choose to wait until 40 or beyond to become a parent.

The best way to find out if having a baby is the right choice for you is by talking it over with your partner, weighing the pros and cons of being a parent later in life, and consulting with your doctor.

Let's explore both sides so that you can have the information needed in order to make this very important decision for yourself.

Check out our guide to slapped cheek pregnancy risks, and to a plus-size pregnancy for more advice and information throughout your pregnancy.

The Joy Of Having A Baby At 40

Getting pregnant over 40 can be amazing, and is a great decision for many couples.

More couples are choosing to have kids later in their life than ever before. Sometimes this is purely because they want to make the most of their lives without kids in their 20s and 30s, and may find themselves more ready to take that step in their 40s.

Financially, you will probably be more likely to be in a strong place at age 40 than you were in your earlier years, so the financial burden of having a child will be less of an issue.

You might be in a better place to provide the things you want your child to have, like a secure home, a good education, and activities and hobbies that you could not have offered while you were younger.

Emotionally you may feel better equipped to deal with being pregnant and giving birth, as well as raising a child at a later maternal age.

This can have a strong positive impact on the kids you raise, giving them a better home life and a sense of security and support so that their mental health is more likely to be good as they get older.

If you're a woman who had a difficult or dangerous birth experience in the past, the impact can often be minimized by waiting, which translates into less risk and fewer complications for both mother and baby.

For this reason, it might be the best decision for you to wait until you're slightly older before you choose to get pregnant again.

Older women are also more likely to have a specialist on hand to monitor their health and that of their baby closely, which adds another layer of protection that can make pregnancy actually safer if anything does go wrong.

Older mothers tend to give birth to larger babies, who tend to have longer gestation periods than younger mothers. And since their wombs can produce more nutrients to nourish their babies, older mothers may be able to go longer between feedings without compromising the health of their child.

If you choose to have a baby using IVF, then you are more likely to have more than one baby. If this is your first time getting pregnant, it could be a happy surprise that you end up with more than one baby instead of just one, as this might be your last chance of giving birth.

Pregnancy Over 40: Risks And Complications

Over the years, fertility and pregnancy technology has developed hugely, making it safer than ever before for women over 40 to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy.

However it is still considered a higher risk for older women to get pregnant, so your doctor is likely to want to monitor the following risk factors to make sure you stay safe and healthy.

The odds of being able to get pregnant spontaneously at age 40 are roughly 70%, which is definitely lower than the 87-91 % of 15 to 35-year-olds.

However it is still in your favor, and with help from your ob-gyn and today's health and medical technology, it is absolutely possible and within the odds, for most women to conceive and give birth to healthy babies without problems.

However, there are risks to getting pregnant over 40, which should be considered carefully before embarking on your journey to conceive.

Miscarriage, low birth weight, high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome, and ectopic pregnancy are all risks that are more prominent when falling pregnant at an advanced maternal age.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal condition that can cause irregular menstrual periods, infertility, acne, and obesity can also make it harder to conceive. PCOS also increases the risk of developing gestational diabetes.

In some cases, PCOS can be corrected through lifestyle changes or medication. But if you have all the symptoms of PCOS and suspect that you have it but haven't yet confirmed it with your doctor, it's important to get to the root of the problem as soon as possible.

In your mid-40s, you are at the age of peri-menopause. Although the average age is 51, 45 is still considered within the age normal range.

If you are struggling to have a baby, it might be due to the peri-menopause, which means less ovulation and more spread-out periods. If you have gone through menopause already, you can still give birth to a baby naturally, but you will need to have high-quality eggs implanted.

Freezing your eggs or using a donor at this age could be the right decision.

Over the age of 40, if you decide to conceive a child, you will be at higher risk of your eggs not being viable for pregnancy. This is one of the reasons that miscarriage is more likely, and chromosomal abnormalities like Down syndrome are a higher risk.

To combat these issues, you might want to think about freezing eggs in your younger years so that you have a better chance of having a baby in your 40s.

Hindsight is obviously a virtue, so if you are already in your 40s then this tip isn't very helpful, but younger women might want to take it into account if they are considering waiting and conceiving when they are at an older age.

No matter what age you are now, it's important to remember that women who get pregnant as they enter later adulthood are still at increased risk for pregnancy complications. Women over the age of 40 are also more at risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, which is when the embryo attaches outside of the womb.

This can be very dangerous for both the mother and child and usually will have to result in surgery to remove the embryo in the first weeks or months of pregnancy.

The medical risks and complications that may be associated with pregnancy after 40 are not all bad though. In fact, a few studies have even shown that having children later in life may actually lower the risk of heart attacks and strokes in older women.

Pregnancy After 40: Tips To Keep You & Baby Healthy

Women over 40 that have decided to try to get pregnant will need to take extra precautions to keep their baby safe during pregnancy. These are some of our tips for mature moms:

1. If you want to increase your chances of fertility as an older mom, then you should try to eat healthily whenever possible, and add a prenatal vitamin supplement into your diet as well.

2. Be mindful of any changes in your body, and have regular checkups on your fertility and overall health with your doctor.

3. If you drink or smoke, then these could be contributing to a lower rate of fertility, so older women who want to make sure their fertility is at peak performance might consider quitting or cutting down on these habits.

4. Exercise fans might want to lay off the vigorous regime too, as excessive weight lifting and high-intensity workouts can also make your chances of infertility higher as an older mother.

5. Women who are having problems with conceiving might want to look at joining a fertility clinic, where they will be able to get tested for infertility. The clinic can recommend treatments like IVF if you are struggling to get pregnant naturally.

6. It is recommended to try to keep on top of your weight if you want to have a baby over 40, as those with a higher body fat level or a body fat level that's too low will be less likely to be able to conceive.

Staying at a stable and healthy weight wherever possible is your best option.

7. Acupuncture can also be a great help, as it levels out your blood flow to your pelvic region. Studies have actually shown that it improves the chances of conceiving a child on IVF.

8. Vitamin D is important when you're in your 40s, as it works to make the uterus more receptive to eggs. Folic acid is another important nutrient, and pregnant women of any age (including those over 40) should aim to consume 0.0141-0.0282 oz (400 to 800 mg) of folic acid each day.

9. Women in their 40s should get tested for gestational diabetes during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes can make pregnancy riskier. If you have it, make sure that your doctor monitors your blood sugar level, even if you're not eating a lot of carbohydrates in general. Your doctor will likely recommend that you have a snack before bed so that your blood sugar levels stay level during the night.

10. It is best to avoid alcohol consumption during pregnancy. Excessive drinking may increase the risk of miscarriage and premature delivery by causing potentially dangerous changes in blood sugar levels.

11. You may want to consider a C-section. Some studies show that women who have a C-section in their 40s are healthier and better off than women who try to give birth vaginally, so it could be worth speaking to your health provider about the risks and rewards.

12. If you become pregnant, try to get adequate rest and avoid unnecessary stress. If you have been exercising regularly, it will be easier for you to maintain your fitness level during pregnancy, but don't overdo it. And if you feel unusually tired, eat well and drink lots of water or other fluids to ensure that you stay hydrated.

13. Keep in mind that pregnancy can be stressful for any mother, no matter her age. To help minimize the risks and improve your chances of being healthy during pregnancy, make sure that you have good prenatal care from both doctors and midwives.

If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at our tips for being a birth partner, or what it means if you have no morning sickness?

We Want Your Photos!
We Want Your Photos!

We Want Your Photos!

Do you have a photo you are happy to share that would improve this article?
Email your photos

More for You

See All

Written by Akinwalere Olaleye

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

Akinwalere Olaleye picture

Akinwalere OlaleyeBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature

As a highly motivated, detail-oriented, and energetic individual, Olaleye's expertise lies in administrative and management operations. With extensive knowledge as an Editor and Communications Analyst, Olaleye excels in editing, writing, and media relations. Her commitment to upholding professional ethics and driving organizational growth sets her apart. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature from the University of Benin, Edo State. 

Read full bio >