When Are You Too Old To Have A Baby?
Have you ever asked yourself “When are you too old to have a baby?” If are over 35 years old and you have always wanted a child, you most likely had.
As you get older and the plans of conceiving a baby didn`t materialized, there are all sorts of questions and dilemmas that arise. Years pass and you start to wonder if you aren`t too old to get pregnant. There are a lot of reasons for which women choose to believe this from about 35 years old. There are medically related reasons, but also social or biological. There`s no right age to become a mother. This is certain!
In a lot of Western countries, the age at which women have their first child is raising. If in 1960, the most live births (around 37%) had mothers with ages of 20 – 24 years old, in 2010 most of them (around 29.6%) had mothers with ages between 25 and 29, according to ISI.
In 1980, the average age of the mother at her first birth was of 22.6 years old, increasing in 2010 at 26 years old. In the urban areas, the average age at which women had their first child was 27.5 years old.
While women choose to postpone the moment when they choose to have a baby, they are covered of concerns about their “biological clock.” In the Western countries, these anxieties have also been fueled by mass-media. In 2002, when publishing the “Creating a Life” book, its author Sylvia Ann Hewlett recommend women to have a child when they are young, otherwise risking not to have this chance, and several publications have launched an alarm signal, such as The Observer or Newsweek.
Still, when it`s too late to have a child? Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego University, has decided to find the truth. The researcher wanted to discover what is indeed the answer to this question, because she exceeded the psychological threshold of 30 years and wanted to remain pregnant. She then understood that there are a lot of false data spread in these books and magazines for women who wanted to have a child, and she decided to write her own book.
“I noticed that a lot of the things I read online or in books were either partially or completely wrong, or from an unreliable source. Being a researcher, it was bothering me to see how so many women were receiving false information. I told to all my friends what I have discovered, but then I realized that I can reach many other women by simply writing a book,” explained Twenge. Therefore, the researcher has published “The Impatient Woman`s Guide to Getting Pregnant,” but the book wasn`t the only result of her efforts. Jean Twenge has 3 children, all conceived naturally after 30 years old (one of which at 39 years old).
Table of Contents
- 1 When Are You Too Old To Have A Baby?
- 2 The Woman`s Organism after 40
- 3 The Woman`s Organism Between 45 and 50
- 4 Pregnancy after 50 Years
- 5 Why Are So Many Wrong Information Spread?
- 6 Which Are the Conclusions?
When Are You Too Old To Have A Baby?
Although the risk of chromosomal defects is increasing along with the age of the woman, the probability of giving birth to a baby with chromosomal malformations remains very low throughout the entire fertile interval of time (more here):
- In women of around 35 years old, 99% of fetuses are normal from the chromosomal point of view.
- In women of around 40 years old, 97% of fetuses are normal from the chromosomal point of view.
- In women of around 45 years old, 87% of fetuses are normal from the chromosomal point of view.
The Woman`s Organism after 40
The good news is that a recent study shows that women of over 40 years who give birth to babies without fertility drugs or other assisted reproductive procedures have a tendency to live longer.
Why is this? One of the theories is that estrogen, which is still abundant in the organism of fertile women, has the effect of prolonging the life of the heart, bones and other organs. Still, less than 1% from women who have between 40 and 44 years are able to give birth. The chances of remaining pregnant decrease each month to 5% after 40 years.
The way you carry a pregnancy to the end and how the delivery occurs if you are over 40 depend on several factors: your physical shape, healthy habits and whether is your first child or not.
The thing that most pregnant women over 40 complain is that they are very tired. The hormonal changes during pregnancy make women feel tired, but fatigue seem to be more pronounced in older women and be even more accentuated if they have other smaller children from who they need to get away.
If you already have other children, you are prone to hemorrhoids, increased pressure on the bladder, prolapsed tissues from the uterus and vagina, or breast softness. You are able to minimize these effects by making sure you won`t gain too much weight during pregnancy, doing moderate physical exercises (Kegel exercises) to maintain the strength of your vaginal muscles.
The Emotional State After 40
Until 40, you gained a large experience and a lot of maturity that you can use to raising a child. There are big chances to be more patient that you had in your 20s. However, you may be more concerned by others things as well.
Most often, doctors hear “I`ll be too old when my child will study at the university!” Or it might be possible for parents to look into the future and see that they`ll have their “nest empty” when they`ll be 60 or 70 years old. Parents with older ages need to balance their sense of freedom loss with the one of joy coming from raising a child.
Risks for the Baby
Unfortunately, around 1/3 from pregnancies of women between 40 and 44 years old end up in a miscarriage. The reasons are multiple: the eggs might be imperfect, the amount of blood to the uterus may not be enough to support the pregnancy, or the tissue that covers the uterus may not be thick enough.
Also, the risks of placenta previa and placental detachment are pretty high. Babies born in women over 40 have an increased risk of low birth weight (under 2.5 kg).
The risks of chromosomal defects at birth increase constantly each year after 40. If you give birth after this age, your baby has a risk of 1 out of 106 to have Down syndrome and 1 out of 66 to be born with chromosomal abnormalities. Until 44, these risks increase with 1 out of 38 and respectively 1 out of 26.
The Woman`s Organism Between 45 and 50
The percentage of women who give birth in this age is of 0.03, and changes of success of a treatment against infertility decrease a lot. The fact that you are capable of conceiving a child and carry out the pregnancy is an achievement, and to some extent, it`s a consequence of your good health.
We all hear stories of success about women who gave birth when they were close to 50 by IVF. But more than half of these pregnancies are due to donated oocytes by other women.
After you conceived a child, it`s possible to be the subject of more rigorous tests than if you were younger. Most pregnant women over 40 pass through the stress of the required tests to check their cardiovascular system`s health and are carefully monitored for detecting any signs of diabetes or kidney problems. – Read more!
Even if you are in an amazing physical shape, carrying out a pregnancy and giving birth to a baby will be more difficult tasks than if you had the body from your 20s.
In a way, a pregnancy is like an athletic competition. The blood volume in the body becomes almost double and this puts a lot of demand on the heart, and the extra weight will require more from the wrists and muscles.
The Emotional State After 45
Most women over 45 are just as concerned about their health as their baby`s. And they are right to be, because they are both exposed to high risks at this age. But most pregnancies tend to develop healthy even at this age. The more you take care of you and your pregnancy, the more chances there are to reach the term safely. – Check out this web link!
Risks for the Baby
More than half of pregnancies of women over 45 end up in a miscarriage (before the week 20 of pregnancy). For all women over 40 the risk of stillbirth is double than in women with ages between 20 and 30. Due to this reason, a lot of doctors advise women with older ages to more tests and ultrasounds during the last weeks of pregnancy.
The risk of chromosomal abnormalities increases quite a lot. At 45, the risk of giving birth to a child with Down syndrome is of 1 out of 30 cases, and the risk for chromosomal abnormalities is of 1 out of 21. In the case of women of 49 years old, the risks are 1 out of 11 and respectively 1 out of 8.
Pregnancy after 50 Years
The average age of the onset of menopause is 51, but it usually varies between 45 and 55. Almost all pregnancies after 50 years require specialized assistance, no matter if we are talking about fertility medications, hormonal supplements or eggs donated by other women. Women who still ovulate at this age need to take progesterone at least during the first 2 months to maintain the pregnancy. Women who no longer ovulate need eggs from other women who donate them to conceive a child, and also need to take estrogen and progesterone throughout the most part of pregnancy, until the placenta starts to produce these hormones on its own.
At this age, the rate of complications is high, including issues like hypertension, kidney and placental problems; they require monitoring and strict care.
Then it`s also an issue related to the age of the woman after the child`s birth. We all know women of 50 years old who are more active than women in their 20s, and they also have the advantage of experience and maturity. But the reality is that women over 50 needs extra energy, not to mention vitality, to be able to wake up from 2 to 2 hours and feed the baby or to keep up with a newborn in general.
Why Are So Many Wrong Information Spread?
One of the reasons for which so much erroneous data is widespread is probably a common cognitive error that is known as “availability heuristic,” meaning the mental shortcut which occurs when people estimate the probability of an event based on the ease with which they are able to think about the examples.
Only 1% of babies who are born in the United States are the result of IVF, and most women use this method not due to their age, but because they need to overcome issues like blocked fallopian tubes, male infertility and other similar difficulties. Statistics related to IVF don`t tell us much about natural conception, which requires only 1 egg (not 12 or more).
Studies on natural conception are difficult to perform, this being one of the reasons for which the statistics related to IVF and historical data play such an important role in fertility studies. Most present data related to births aren`t useful, because most women give birth after 20 years old and then they use birth control pills to prevent pregnancy in their 30s and 40s. Also, it`s not recommended to ask people after how much time they succeeded in conceiving a child, as the human memory (also surgery data) isn`t reliable.
These modern issues can explain why studies use historical data from before contraceptive methods appear. Still, this method has a lot of advantages: in that period, there weren`t any antibiotics, modern medical treatments and not even enough sources of food. Also, the decline in fertility may be due to the fact that a lot of couples have sexual contacts less often while times is passing.
Which Are the Conclusions?
According to Jean Twenge, the professor of psychology who we mentioned earlier, despite that most data are incomplete or imperfect, they suggest 2 main conclusions:
- Fertility decreases while we age.
- Most women who approach 40s will be able to remain pregnant.
“From my point of view, each woman should plan to have a baby until 40 years old. Beyond this age, it`s a question of probability, although it`s still possible to conceive a child. Fertility is relatively stable until the end of the fourth decade of life, the inflection point being somewhere around age of 38 – 39 years,” explains Twenge.
The author of the “The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant” book outlines that it`s necessary that all couples to understand that is important for the sexual contact to occur in the most fertile moment of the menstrual cycle. She notes that there are studies that show that scheduling the sexual contacts around the ovulation period decreases the difference of fertility between older and younger women quite a lot. Therefore, older women of 35 years old who want to remain pregnant should be able to identify their ovulation period by carefully noting the cycles or by using a device for monitoring fertility. – Click here!
Twenge explains in her book that a less known fact is that the ovulation day isn`t the most fertile day from the menstrual cycle, this moment occurring 2 days before ovulation. Also, she combats the myth according to which those who want a girl should have sexual contacts further away than the ovulation day, and those who want a boy, closer. She claims that the most recent research suggests exactly the opposite.
So, there are no reasons of concern if you passed the psychological threshold of 30 years. Most women have all the changes of enjoying the experience of becoming a mother after this threshold as well.