Trying to Conceive After 40: More Dangerous?

I am 45 years old and thinking about trying to conceive. What complications might I encounter at this age?

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Peg Plumbo CNM

Peg Plumbo has been a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) since 1976. She has assisted at over 1,000 births and currently teaches in the... Read more

While medical science and technology can offer new hope for older women conceiving a child, not much can be done about the increased risks to you and to the baby once conception has occurred.

After age 40, your risks do indeed go up. Risk for multiple births, preeclampsia, hypertension, fetal growth restriction, diabetes and preterm labor all increase with age. Of course, you may be just the couple who beat the odds -- and much also depends on your emotional resiliency. It can be very helpful to have a loving husband and friends to help support you.

At age 45 or 46, your risk of having a child with Down Syndrome would be 1 in 23 to 30 and your risk for any chromosomal abnormality is 1 in 15 to 20.

I don't mean to discourage you. If this is something you really want to do, of course, you should do it. I don't believe pregnancy and birth would pose substantial risk to your general health, but you may want to consider the emotional and physical stamina required to be pregnant, give birth and raise a child to adulthood.

There are many books written on this topic. Several books that I highly recommend are:

Getting Pregnant by Melvin Frisch, Body Press: 1987

The Infertility Book by Carla Harkness, Volcano Press: 1987

The Couple's Guide to Fertility by Gary Berger, Main Street Books: 1995

"How to be a Successful Fertility Patient", by Peggy Robin, W. Morrow: 1993

"Birth Over 35", by Sheila Kitzinger, Penguin Books: 1985

"Last-Chance Children", by Monica Morris, NY: Columbia University Press: 1988

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