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What it means to be pregnant after 40

When you talk to women who are pregnant, they will tell you pregnancy is a time of discovery, wonderment, excitement and fear. We all worry about the same things regardless of whether we are in our 20’s 30’s 40’s or beyond.

Many women will share with you that they worry about:

• What if my baby isn’t healthy?
• What if I miscarry?
• What if I develop complications (preterm labor, gestational diabetes, or preeclampsia)?
• What about the stress in my life will it hurt the baby?
• What about me? Will life ever be the same again?
• What if I can’t handle childbirth? And how bad is having a baby going to hurt?
• What if my baby dies?
• What happens if I am a bad mother?
• Will this affect my sex life?
• Will my partner look at me differently after I give birth?
• What if I gain a lot of weight and can’t get my body back?

The list is endless, but the good news is that these are all normal text book fears and concerns.

One of the best things about having children over forty is that you have had time to experience so much already – you have grown into your own skin, you are likely more patient than you once were, you may have seen some of the world, hopefully you are more secure financially, you have probably put down residential roots and know where you want to live for the rest of your life, you are most likely established in your career, and presumably have had the opportunity to explore the notion of having a child with your partner fully. All these life experiences are invaluable in helping you build a rock solid foundation for raising your family. Most women will tell you they are centered and know who they are by age 40.

As you have discovered, the biggest downside to postponing pregnancy until your 40’s is that it is much more difficult to conceive - and the longer you wait, the harder it becomes. As we age, so do our eggs - and our egg supply dwindles dramatically. The remaining eggs are much more likely to have chromosomal issues that increase risks for miscarriage and birth defects.

For instance, by age 32 our fertility experiences the first hit, by the time you reach 40 you have a 20% percent chance of getting pregnant over a one-year period with your own eggs. Once a woman hits 45 she has less than a 5 percent chance of conceiving naturally. Additionally, miscarriage rates become much higher. A 40-year-old woman has a 35% chance of miscarriage with her own eggs and women over 45 have a miscarriage rate as high as 50 percent or more with their own eggs.

In our 40’s we are more likely to develop issues like Gestational Diabetes and Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH also known as high blood pressure during pregnancy). We also might experience more fatigue as well as more aches and pains during pregnancy than those around who are under 40. We know for instance that women over 40 are at higher risk of delivering pre-term or low birth weight babies and are more likely to experience problems with the placenta at birth. The stillbirth rates are higher and the C-section rate is higher. It can take some of us longer to bounce back then it does those under 40 and, finally, sometimes the post-partum phase of pregnancy is tougher on those over 40 who have used IVF to conceive.

The challenges we face being over 40 and pregnant are real and concerning. The more you know, the better prepared you will be. That’s why we believe that it’s incredibly important that you educate yourself about pregnancy for women over 40 so that you enter into this with your eyes wide open.

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