A lot of women nowadays get pregnant at a later age. There are many reasons for this: some take their time in choosing their partner, while others opt to focus on building their careers first. Still others have health conditions that make it hard for them to conceive.
Regardless of the reason, many women find that getting pregnant at age 35 and above is not easy. If you’re at this age bracket, you might find it difficult to conceive, and when you do get pregnant, you might encounter complications that can affect your health as well as your baby’s.
Fortunately, these don’t mean that you won’t have a successful pregnancy; in fact, a lot of mothers conceive and give birth to healthy babies when they’re 35 years old or older.
Difficulties with Conceiving
When you reach 35 years old and beyond, one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is having a successful conception. This isn’t surprising, though, since fertility generally decreases as you age.
Studies have found that a significant decline in fertility happens when women reach 32 years old. It’s safe to say that your chances of getting pregnant are considerably lower when you’re 32 years old compared to when you were 27 — even if only five years have passed.
The clock ticks even faster when you reach 37 years old because your fertility decreases at an even greater rate at this stage.
To illustrate this decline, experts point out that women who are in their 20s have a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant during one menstrual cycle. When they reach their mid-30s, this number drops to 15 percent. It further decreases to 10 percent when they reach 40 years old and 3 percent when they turn 45.
Why does this happen? The answer is simple: the reproductive system (and the human body as a whole) becomes less efficient as it grows older. As you age, your ovaries become less responsive to hormones that encourage ovulation, and they have a harder time releasing mature and healthy eggs.
Every woman has a finite number of eggs in her ovaries. The “antral follicle count” or egg count decreases after each menstrual cycle, completely ending at age of 48-55 years. In later 40s, the menstrual cycle because irregular as less number of eggs are available to be released, resulting in anovulatory cycles. The unavailability of egg contributes to subfertility.
It’s important to note, though, that problems with conception are not just caused by your age. Certain health issues, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and pelvic inflammatory disease, can affect your fertility, no matter how old you are.
The age of your partner also matters. One study has found out that women aged 35 to 39 years old had a 29 percent chance of getting pregnant on their most fertile day. However, this chance dropped to only 18 percent if their partner was five years older than them.
Increasing your chances of conceiving
Just because you’re aged 35 years old and above does not mean you won’t get pregnant. Many women in this age bracket find it easy to conceive, and those who don’t can get the help of experts.
If you’re aged 35 to 39 years old and have decided you want to get pregnant, try to conceive naturally for six months. If six months pass and you’re still not pregnant, schedule a visit with your doctor to know if you and/or your partner have fertility issues.
If you’re aged 40 and beyond, it’s advisable to see your doctor even before you try to get pregnant — there’s no need to wait for six months. This way, your fertility levels can be checked right away, and if there are any issues, your doctor can recommend the appropriate treatments ASAP.
Aside from getting expert help with your fertility, you’ll want to focus on improving your health. Remember: you can’t increase the quantity of your eggs, but you can enhance their quality and make them more receptive to fertilization.
One way to do this is to take melatonin, folic acid, and myo-inositol supplements, which should be prescribed by your doctor. Eating healthy food, exercising on a regular basis, and getting plenty of rest and sleep can also help.
You can increase your chances of conceiving by understanding your body in a better way and knowing your fertility signs. Familiarize yourself with methods that measure fertility, such as taking your basal body temperature and checking your cervical fluid, to predict when you’re ovulating. This, in turn, will help you know the best times to have intercourse.
Of course, try not to be anxious about the fact that you’re having problems with conceiving. Stress and anxiety can negatively affect fertility, so by worrying too much, you’re actually decreasing your chances of getting pregnant. Remind yourself that it takes around two years for couples aged 35 and above to conceive, and just enjoy the journey.
Risk and Complications
Before you try to conceive, you must know that getting pregnant when you’re aged 35 and above comes with several risks and can lead to serious complications — both for you and your child. We’ve listed some of them below:
The risk for miscarriage rises as women age. Those in their early 20s face a risk of around 10 percent, which increases to 12 percent when they reach their early 30s. When they turn 35, the miscarriage rate rises to 18 percent, and it nearly doubles when women reach their 40th birthday .
Anyone can get gestational diabetes, but the risk increases when you’re older. This can cause your baby to develop macrosomia (i.e. he grows larger than the normal size) and makes you more prone to get Type-2 diabetes after pregnancy.
Preeclampsia and eclampsia
Preeclampsia is defined as having high blood pressure along with signs of liver and kidney damage. Eclampsia also has these characteristics plus seizures, which can lead to serious complications.
Those who get pregnant beyond their 30s have higher risks of having babies with Down Syndrome. Women aged 25 years old have a risk of 1 in 1,250, and those aged 30 have a risk of 1 in 952. Those aged 35 have a risk of 1 in 378, and those aged 40 face a risk of 1 in 100.
Low birth weight
When you get pregnant at 35 years old and above, there’s a chance your baby will have a birth weight below 5.5 lbs. This can expose him to various health problems, such as breathing difficulties and brain hemorrhage.
Ensuring a Healthy Pregnancy
The risks and complications listed above might make you fearful about getting pregnant when you’re aged 35 years old and beyond. However, you can take steps to increase your chances of giving birth to a healthy baby.
One of these is to follow your doctor-recommended prenatal checkup schedule. Regular checkups allow your physician to closely monitor your health, spot any potential complications, and provide you with the appropriate treatments to reduce health risks.
Taking prenatal vitamins is also recommended. Folic acid supplementation, for example, has been shown to help prevent neural tube defects in babies born to older women. These defects can affect the brain and spinal cord and lead to severe deformities and even death.
Improving your overall lifestyle can likewise help. Ditch junk food and fast food and eat more fruits, vegetables, and lean meat. Ask your doctor about the types of exercises that you can safely do, and perform these workouts every day to maintain healthy activity levels.
If you smoke or drink, you’ll want to stop while you’re pregnant (and even after you deliver your baby) to minimize the amount of harmful substances your baby is exposed to.