THE RISKS AND REALITIES OF BEING PREGNANT AFTER 40

“Just know that at your age, one in four pregnancies will end in miscarriage,” said my OB after confirming my second pregnancy at 41. I remember being slightly offended that my OB would announce this on the same happy day my pregnancy was confirmed but, in hindsight, and after having been one in four who lost that pregnancy, I was grateful for her candor.  

In major cities being pregnant at and over 40 is both intentional and prevalent. We come to the city, climb whatever ladder it may be, date casually then less casually, and then we decide, OK, time to make a baby. But with who, we ask? And will there be time? And: is it safe?

 

The short answer is yes. Plenty of women become pregnant and give birth in their 40s, over 100,000 each year. But what risks and realities did these women encounter along their birthing paths?

 

I know it's essential to be honest about these potential and commonplace risks, despite them being uncomfortable to think about. This New York Times piece breaks down some potential risks and complications without suggesting women shouldn’t try to have babies in their 40s. Some things for you or a friend to consider if she's trying to conceive with what up until recently was considered a “geriatric womb.”  

 

  • It might not be easy

  • Your chances of miscarriage are at least one in four

  • If you froze your eggs, even in your 30s, it’s no guarantee it will result in a healthy embryo to implant, or a baby

  • If you are embarking on IVF, keep expectations low as you will probably have to do multiple rounds

  • Most women eventually do get pregnant and go on to deliver healthy babies!

 

The most optimistic clinician cited here was Dr. James Grifo, M.D., Ph.D., program director at the NYU Langone Fertility Center. He pointed out that, “The average age of my patient is 39, and obstetrically, they do quite well. Age is not a reason not to try if you want a baby." And yet the path to a healthy baby might not be straightforward. Scaring yourself is never a good idea but neither is being in the dark about potential complications that can increase with maternal age. While every woman’s path to motherhood is unique, and it’s hard to reconcile a statistic with an anecdote or personal experience, knowledge is both power and powerful.

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