Babies After 40: The Health & Fertility Issues
Here’s what to know…
We can’t help notice some women are choosing to have children at an older age, while others are facing challenges to start their dream families. As a result, many women over 40 are giving birth, so which health issues could they encounter?
Whether it’s a conscious decision or due to difficulties getting pregnant, many women are starting a family later in life, leading to one in five births for women over the age of 35. Most have perfectly healthy pregnancies and babies, but being an older mum can affect your pregnancy and the birth. Finding out how can help you to be prepared.
The Chances Of Getting Pregnant Over 40
A study in the medical journal “Fertility and Sterility” confirms there is a steep drop in fertility in the 40s. Researchers found 40-year-old females being treated for infertility had a 25 percent chance of getting pregnant using their own eggs. But once they hit 43 that number dropped to 10 percent, what’s more by 44 it had plummeted to 1.6 percent. Among women who did get pregnant, the miscarriage rate was 24 percent for 40-year-olds, 38 percent for 43-year-olds and 54 percent for 44-year-olds. “After the age of 45, women are not able to get pregnant naturally. even 15 years before going through menopause, the number of their eggs begins to decrease,” Dr Sarah Taher said. The gynaecologist went on to explain women’s reduced fertility is not about the quantity of eggs they have, it’s also about their quality. “By the age of 40, a woman’s eggs are more likely to have structural problems, also known as chromosomal abnormalities,” she said. These chromosomal abnormalities can raise the risk of miscarriage and birth defects, clarifying why complications are more common in older women.
What Can Happen
Experts say after the age of 45, it’s almost impossible to get pregnant by undergoing heavy treatments. Women can get pregnant after this age by only using fertility therapies. “The longer a woman waits, the harder it is to get pregnant. It is because her egg supply reduces significantly as she ages and older eggs are more likely to have chromosomal problems, raising the risk of miscarriage or birth difficulties,” Taher said.
Women who get pregnant at an older age have an increased risk of on-going health conditions and some may only be discovered when they are pregnant. “The older the mother is, the more likely she is to have health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure,” the gynaecologist. “These conditions can affect how well the pregnancy and birth go, as well as the mother’s health.”
Sadly, miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies are more common in women aged over 40 as well. “The rate of miscarriage increases steadily, so that by the age of 45, women have about a one-in-two risk of miscarrying if they conceived naturally,” Taher said. Other pregnancy complications that are more common include the placenta peeling away from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery, a condition called placental abruption and pre-eclampsia, which is thought to occur when there's a problem with the placenta. Placenta praevia, when the placenta stays low-lying in the womb, possibly blocking the neck of the uterus, thus interfering with a normal delivery, is also a potential problem. Taher mentioned gestational diabetes and multiple pregnancies as well. When approaching menopause, a woman’s hormones work harder to release an egg from the ovaries, so there is a one-in-two chance of having twins Taher explained. “This is a result of two eggs being released at the time of ovulation. They can be fertilised and implanted in her uterus, resulting in non-identical twins,” she added.
Over 40 mummies-to-be are very much likely to give birth by caesarean section and the rate of this increases the older the mother is. Taher explained this is because there is a likelihood the baby might be in an awkward position during birth, especially if the child a first-born. “There is an increased risk of foetal distress during labour, particularly for first-time pregnancies in women aged over 40. There is also a great likelihood of long labour, because the muscles of your womb work less efficiently when you’re older,” she added.
The Good News
However, there are some physical advantages for pregnant women in their 40s over their younger counterparts. For example, they are probably eating a better diet and exercising more regularly than they did when they were in their 20s, according to Taher. “Older women are more health cautious, they are strict on themselves and they follow the rules religiously to achieve their goals, which in this case is a healthy pregnancy,” she pointed out.
The gynaecologist said the other two other good points about older women have babies is they are are emotionally and financially stable. “As an older mother a woman is in a good position to make wise parenting decisions and be confident about her approach to child-rearing,” Taher said.
Here are Taher’s tips for a safer pregnancy:
- Follow a balanced diet, making vegetables, fruits, whole grains and proteins the main components
- Constantly follow up with your gynaecologist to prescribe the right vitamins and minerals to support the development of the foetus