Having a baby at the age of 40 isn’t a selfish thing to do as financial stability, relationship stability, having a career, and being mentally and emotionally prepared for parenthood are some of the benefits of having a baby later in life. Housing, lifestyle goals, and health are amongst the factors affected by having a baby at any age since it is a personal choice to bring forth life.
While the advantages of having a baby at 40 are outstanding, there are a few downsides to consider, like your physical health and pregnancy risks, even though medical advances and fertility treatments have enabled women to carry perfectly healthy babies well into their 40s.
Of course, while the most suitable time to have a baby is when you are ready for it, increased paternal and maternal age are risk factors for pregnancy complications and birth defects, making pregnancy at 40 and beyond high risk even though any pregnancy does not come without risks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, birth rates amongst women in their 40s have been steadily increasing in the last few decades, and if that just so happens to be when you are ready, then there’s nothing selfish about it.
There may just be a few extra things you’ll need to consider and adjust when trying for a baby at this age.
Things to consider when planning to have a baby at 40
At 40, your body will have to work harder, and you may likely develop higher pregnancy complication risks, and your midwife will explain more about what your care will look like.
You’ll also have a chance to ask any questions about issues that may affect older women during pregnancy or talk about any other concerns you may have in terms of:
1. Fertility levels
Unlike the male sperm cells that are constantly replenished, the number of egg cells a woman is born with is all she will have in her lifetime, and the quality and quantity of these egg cells go down with age.
By age 40, egg quality, viability and fertility begin to decline rapidly, and a healthy woman only has a 10% chance of conceiving in one menstrual cycle with the likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities increasing and a probability of down syndrome at 1 out of 85 pregnancies with a 50% risk of miscarriage.
According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, natural conception and pregnancy are almost impossible for some women from the age of 40, and fertility interventions may be needed if conception is not achieved after 12 months of regular unprotected intercourse.
2. The risks of pregnancy complications
A woman having a baby at the age of 40 is considered to be of advanced maternal age with an increased risk of gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and preeclampsia, with the likelihood of premature labor, preterm birth, and low birth weight increasing at this age.
Vanishing twin syndrome and ectopic pregnancy complications are also common in pregnancies conceived after using fertility treatments with men with 40 years and being 5.75 times more likely to father autistic babies than those under 40.
3. The risk of labor and delivery complications
With advanced maternal age, vaginal delivery may be more difficult, and the cesarean section becomes common with women having their first babies at 40 having a 3.6 times higher chance of needing the cesarean section procedure, while the chances double for those who have had previous births.
Having a baby at 40 could also mean a higher likelihood of needing induced labor.
With the slight increase in the risk of stillbirth, health care providers may recommend inducing labor at 39 weeks to reduce the risk of stillbirth at the age of 40, and you may also need to be monitored for longer, which means a longer hospital stay.
4. Your long-term health
At 40, one of the most important things to consider when thinking about having a baby is your physical fitness and long-term health as you age and as your baby grows up.
What to do to have a healthy pregnancy at 40
Pregnancy at 40 is easy and fun, but the best thing you can do to your pregnant at 40 self is to concentrate on trying to be as healthy as possible by:
- Eating a healthy balanced diet.
- Shedding off some weight before the pregnancy if you are overweight or obese.
- Managing your weight gain during the pregnancy.
- Try to avoid infections such as rubella at this time of your pregnancy.
- Avoid certain foods such as raw and undercooked meat while the pregnancy is ongoing.
- Limit your caffeine intake before and during the pregnancy.
- Do not drink alcohol or use illegal substances during pregnancy.
- Do not smoke.
- Stay active.
Will my age affect my labor and birth?
If you are aged 40 and over, a medical induction at 39 weeks is imminent to get the labor started and reduce the risk of stillbirth, especially if you have other health complications.
Are there advantages to being an older mum?
Other than being financially and emotionally stable, the confidence you may have gained with time through life experiences may make it easier for you to enjoy your pregnancy.
Your age should not worry you. Just concentrate on having a healthy pregnancy and bonding with your new baby after the birth.
Many women can have healthy and safe pregnancies and are glad that they waited. With the proper healthcare and a healthful lifestyle, women have had positive outcomes.
If you are in good health at your 40, having a child through any means shouldn’t be a problem, and wanting to have a child at this age doesn’t make anyone selfish.
Being mindful of your health and taking care of yourself before, during, and after the pregnancy will benefit you and your baby in the short and long term.