Women these days are often waiting longer and longer to have children. They either don’t meet their spouse until well into their 30’s, or they have vibrant careers that keep them busy and putting off a family until they have financial and job security.
Either way, the time just passes and before you know it, 40 is here.
Unfortunately, your chances of conceiving and carrying a baby to term is not as good as it once was. The good news is, you still can, and more and more women in their 40’s are successfully having children.
I mean, if Halle Berry could get pregnant naturally at 46 … (maybe) …
What Are My Chances?
It might seem a cruel joke, but for all the modern hoopla about “40 being the new 30″, that unfortunately has not changed for fertility. You could be physically fit and look ten years younger than you actually are, but you have a finite number of eggs in your ovaries. When they’re gone, that’s it.
In your twenties, you have about a 20% chance of getting pregnant per month of trying. So, fudging the math, this generally means that you should be able to get pregnant after around five or six months. Statistically, after a year of trying, you will have a 96% of conceiving.
In your 30’s, the odds are still quite good: 15% chance per month, and an 86% chance after a year.
By the time you reach 35, that number begins to drop. By the time you’re 40, you have a 7% chance per month … that’s still a healthy 78% chance after a year, though the general consensus is to visit a doctor after 3 months of trying.
After 43, though, it begins to get grim. By the time you’re 45, your chances are only 0.3% per month to conceive naturally.
(Here’s the dry statistics … note that pregnancy rates for women 35 and above has increased quite dramatically from 2000!)
If you’re 40 and still hope to give birth to a child naturally, here are some tips:
Preparation For Naturally Giving Birth at 40
First, see a physician, either your General Practitioner or your OB/GYN. Get a full checkup and consult with the doctor based on their knowledge of your medical details.
To get started, most doctors advise women over 40 to take the same steps as any other woman to prepare to get pregnant. These include:
- Stop smoking, drinking alcohol and check with any prescription drugs. This can be a little difficult for an older woman who has been smoking for 20 years or who is used to a glass or two of wine at the end of a long day. It is important to stop and find alternatives immediately so habits can be broken before pregnancy.
- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight. This is especially important for women whose metabolisms are slower than someone in their 20’s. Exercise will also help fight natural bone loss due to aging.
- Eat a well-rounded diet that includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, healthy lean protein and high quality fiber. Stay away from soy and mass produced meats. Introduce more legumes and organic, grass fed meat sources. Start pre-natal vitamins. Check out our fertility food guide for more info.
- Minimize stress and have a plan for dealing with stress factors while you are trying to conceive and when you are pregnant. Stress and normal treatments (like prescription drugs or alcohol) can interfere with conception and pregnancy. Find other outlets like taking classes, yoga, meditation, writing or anything that will free your mind from daily work stress.
- Cut all caffeine from your diet. For a career in the office, this is hard, but possible. Exercising in the morning often provides the same energy jolt. Caffeine as a habit is much easier to kick than nicotine – a few days of grumpiness and headaches, and afterward your body can do without it.
- Reduce all environmental toxins at home and work. For instance, do not decide to install new carpet now, due to the off gassing of chemicals such as formaldehyde (the “new car smell”), which is actually quite toxic.
- Track your ovulation cycle. Familiarize yourself with your own cycle and start taking your temperature to determine when you are most likely to get pregnant. This is especially important for women over 40 as the hormones begin to change to pre-menopause and cycles can become irregular.
- Prepare yourself with a support system for positive and negative outcomes. Have alternatives in mind so that you have a plan for how to proceed next. This is one of the ways older women will have an advantage, they usually have more security financially and career-wise as well as a base of reliable friends and family.
The Next Step
Once you have made all of these changes and ceased all birth control for a couple months, try getting pregnant with intercourse near ovulation for three whole months (cycles).
For a younger woman, a general rule of thumb is for a year of trying naturally before infertility could be an issue. For those over 40, infertility could be a potential question if you are not pregnant within three months.
After three months, you should visit a fertility specialist for any potential problems. The doctor can examine ovary function and your partner’s sperm to isolate any concerns.
Some issues might be exacerbated, like a pre-arthritic condition in the joints or a slowing of the metabolism. Most doctors will be able to identify and address these issues early, and these are usually of minimal concern.
One thing to be aware of is that the eggs that are left are the ones that have taken the longest to develop, and so have a higher risk of genetic abnormalities. A blood panel will more clearly show chromosomal issues that could compromise your pregnancy.
Yes, You Can!
Changes in your body has its upside too, as women over 40 often release more than one egg per cycle. This increases not only your chance of conception, but also the chance of multiple births.
With proper monitoring, personal awareness and the right attitude, getting pregnant in your 40s is an experience most women would never exchange with their younger selves.
If you do have problems, before devoting a few frustrating months or years with fertility treatments, consider natural, holistic options first:
40 is often the best time to have kids, as you will have finally reached a place in your life to assume your greatest and most fulfilling legacy – that is, to pass down all of your accomplishments, knowledge and life lessons to your new family!