Baby fever? It can strike at any age. If you’ve waited until a bit later in life to try to conceive, you may wonder if you’re too old to have a baby.
A pregnancy after age 35 automatically puts you in the “advanced maternal age” (AMA) category. But try your best to not let that label intimidate you — successful pregnancy after 35 is still common! But what about after 40? 45?
While the road to getting pregnant may be harder for some after a certain age, others may sail through relatively easily. There are many factors at play, including things like your current health status and how close you are to menopause.
Here’s more about your chances of conceiving by age, what risks may be involved for you and your baby, and what questions you may want to ask your doctor before you embark on this journey.
It’s true that there’s a biological clock of sorts. It starts when you get your first period and stops when you reach menopause. As time goes on, your chances of having a successful pregnancy become less and less as your egg reserve diminishes, your egg quality decreases, and your hormones change.
Fertility rates trend with the average number of eggs a woman has at any given age. In general, you begin puberty with between 300,000 to 500,000 eggs. This number drops to around 25,000 at age 37 and continues dropping to 1,000 or fewer by age 51.
How does this look exactly? Well, the likelihood of becoming pregnant naturally (without medical assistance) after a year of trying is as follows:
|<30 years old||85 percent|
|30 years old||75 percent|
|35 years old||66 percent|
|40 years old||44 percent|
Even if you have a lot of eggs and you’re in your 20s or early 30s, your chance of getting pregnant in any given month is 1 out of 4, according to ACOG. By the time you reach 40, only 1 in 10 women will get pregnant each cycle.
Regarding women who undergo artificial reproductive technology (ART), live birth success rates follow a similar decreasing trend with age, according to
|Younger than 35 years old||31 percent|
|35 to 37 years old||24 percent|
|38 to 40 years old||16 percent|
|41 to 42 years old||8 percent|
|43 years old and older||3 percent|
Related: A look at your fertility timeline
Menopause is defined as the stopping of the menstrual cycle (for a year or longer). Most women reach this milestone somewhere between their late 40s and early 50s, with an average age of around 51 years old. So, it’s entirely possible to get pregnant the old-fashioned way into your 50s.
Easy? Not necessarily. But possible? Yes.
Before the menstrual cycle completely stops, there’s a period called perimenopause when cycles become longer and less regular.
Generally, women enter perimenopause sometime in their mid 40s, but some may hit this point as early as their mid 30s. You’re still producing eggs during this time, so pregnancy is possible — albeit more difficult to achieve.
Of course, you’ve probably heard stories of much older women carrying pregnancies to term. For example, a 74-year-old woman in India gave birth to twin girls in 2019.
What’s important to understand about stories like these is that these women often undergo hormone therapy and in vitro fertilization (IVF). They’re the rare exception, not the norm.
The majority of women over age 45 can’t conceive without the help of IVF and other ART procedures. That said, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) shares that any woman of any age can get pregnant — with medical help — provided that she has a “normal uterus” even if she no longer has ovaries or ovarian function.
Related: A 61-year-old woman gave birth to her grandchild
Many women are able to carry pregnancies after age 35 and beyond. However, there are certain risks — for both mother and baby — that tend to increase with maternal age.
- Infertility. It may take longer to get pregnant as you get closer to menopause. Why? Your body begins life with a set number of eggs. As time goes on, that number becomes fewer and fewer. Eggs may also be of lesser quality as you age, meaning they may be harder to fertilize/implant.
- Miscarriage. With a decrease in egg quality comes a higher risk of miscarriage. Pregnancy loss may also be more likely due to medical conditions you have, like high blood pressure or diabetes. Stillbirth is another possibility as well, so it’s important to keep up with prenatal appointments to catch issues early.
- Chromosome issues. Older women may also encounter more chromosome issues. For example, the risk of having a child with Down syndrome is around 1 in 1,480 for women at age 20. At age 40, this risk increases to 1 in 85.
- Multiples. While having more than one bundle of joy may sound more like a blessing than anything else, carrying multiples comes with additional risks. The reasons twins or higher order multiples are more likely over age 35 has to do with hormonal changes (you may release more than one egg each cycle) and the use of ART like IVF.
- Gestational diabetes. Diabetes that develops during pregnancy may make a baby grow large while still inside the womb. When a baby is too large, there’s a possibility of injury at birth. Not only that, but gestational diabetes can contribute to high blood pressure (for mom) and premature birth or other complications (for baby).
- High blood pressure. Developing gestational hypertension or preeclampsia during pregnancy is also more likely over age
- Low birth weight. Different maternal complications may lead to your baby being born prematurely and at a low birth weight, which is associated with additional complications.
- Cesarean delivery. With pregnancy complications comes an increased risk of having a C-section versus vaginal delivery. In fact,
cesarean delivery rates increasethe older you get: from 26 percent at age 20 to 40 percent at age 35 to 48 percent at age 40.
Related: Health concerns for new mothers at 50
Even with the risks, some 17 percent of pregnancies in the United States are to mothers who are over 35. So, if you’d like to explore this route, consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss the benefits and risks.
Some questions to ask your provider:
- What preexisting conditions might impact my odds of getting pregnant or carrying a healthy baby to term?
- What types of lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, etc.) might improve my fertility?
- What timing tricks or treatments might increase my chances of conceiving quickly?
- How soon should I seek help for infertility?
- Besides a prenatal vitamin, what supplements might help with my fertility (if any)?
- What ART procedures might you recommend if we’re unable to conceive naturally? What are the associated costs?
- What types of prenatal testing are available to me to screen for chromosomal abnormalities? And what are the risks of testing?
- What options are available if abnormalities are discovered?
You might also want to ask if certain preconception testing might be helpful. You can get blood tests that check your hormone levels, thyroid function, and ovarian reserve (number of eggs you have). Other tests can check for any abnormalities or damage to the reproductive organs themselves, like the uterus and fallopian tubes.
And some doctors may suggest you meet with a genetic counselor to discuss your risks of carrying a baby with chromosome issues/genetic disorders.
Related: 9 questions about infertility treatments to ask your doctor
If you feel you’ve started this journey too late, have a frank discussion with your doctor. Make a preconception visit. Understand your odds and the risks associated with pregnancy at whatever age you find yourself.
Regardless, your age doesn’t mean you can’t explore other ways to grow your family. Other options include:
- IVF with donor eggs. With this process, you prime your body for pregnancy using hormones. Instead of doing a traditional egg retrieval to later fertilize and transfer, you do an embryo transfer using embryos created with donor eggs that are fertilized with either your partner’s sperm or donor sperm.
- Surrogacy. You may also choose to use a surrogate mother to have your baby. This process involves choosing a surrogate, deciding how pregnancy will be achieved (IVF using a donor egg, your egg, your partner’s sperm, donor sperm, etc.), and then following the legal processes to gain full custody after birth.
- Egg freezing. If you know in advance that you’d like to wait to have a baby and you’re still under age 35, you might consider freezing your eggs now. If you freeze your eggs in your early 30s and plan to use them in your 40s, your odds of having a healthy baby relate to your age when you froze your eggs and not your current biological age.
- Embryo adoption. Whether you choose to do IVF yourself or to use a surrogate, embryo adoption is another option. Embryos are generally frozen and donated by couples who aren’t using them in their own ART procedures.
- Adoption. There are also many children who are seeking homes through the foster care system, private domestic adoption, or international adoption. Children range in ages from newborn all the way up to the teen years.
Related: I didn’t think surrogacy was for me. And then life happened.
If you’re over age 35 and have been trying to conceive for 6 months or longer, contact your doctor. While the rule you may have heard says you should try for a year before seeking help, this timeline becomes expedited as age increases.
If you’re currently dealing with physical or mental health issues, make a plan with your doctor to address those issues so you can get in the best shape to carry a pregnancy. This includes reaching a healthy weight through diet and regular exercise and kicking any unhealthy habits with drugs, alcohol, and smoking.
And once you do get pregnant, be sure to attend all your prenatal appointments so you can catch any issues that arise before they become bigger problems for your health or your baby’s health.
Being AMA means you may have additional appointments, tests, and ultrasounds. It may seem like a lot of office visits, but it’s all meant to keep you and your baby safe.
(Video) What age is it too late to have a baby? - Dr. Smitha Khose
While age does matter when it comes to fertility, it isn’t a black and white issue. Understand the risks, but also understand that each woman and couple is unique. Infertility and pregnancy complications can strike at any age.
On the flip side, it’s possible to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery even at a more advanced age. And even if you feel you’ve waited too long, there are a variety of other options you can explore if you’re looking to grow your family.
Is 37 too old to get pregnant? ›
Age is one of the key factors that predict your ability to conceive. Your fertility starts to decline at age 30 and keeps on dropping steadily until you hit menopause. That said, it's not only possible to deliver a healthy baby after age 35, it's quite common.What's the oldest you should be to have a baby? ›
The average woman's reproductive years are between ages 12 and 51. Your fertility naturally declines as you get older, which could make it harder for you to conceive. And starting a family later in life could pose greater risks for pregnancy complications.Is 40 too old to have a kid? ›
Due to advances in technology surrounding fertility, pregnancy, and delivery, it's possible to safely have a baby at age 40. However, any pregnancy after age 40 is considered high risk.Is 35 too old to have a baby? ›
After age 35, there's a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications that might lead to a C-section delivery. The risk of chromosomal conditions is higher. Babies born to older mothers have a higher risk of certain chromosomal conditions, such as Down syndrome. The risk of pregnancy loss is higher.Will I have a healthy baby at 37? ›
Geriatric pregnancy is a rarely used term for having a baby when you're 35 or older. Rest assured, most healthy women who get pregnant after age 35 and even into their 40s have healthy babies.What are the chances of Down syndrome after 35? ›
Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels. The risk increases with the mother's age (1 in 1250 for a 25 year old mother to 1 in 1000 at age 31, 1 in 400 at age 35, and about 1 in 100 at age 40). However, 80% of babies with Down syndrome are born to women under age 35 years.What's the hardest age of having a baby? ›
But many first-time parents find that after the first month of parenthood, it can actually get more difficult. This surprising truth is one reason many experts refer to a baby's first three months of life as the “fourth trimester.” If months two, three, and beyond are tougher than you expected, you're not alone.What age are men most fertile? ›
Age and Male Fertility
Peak male fertility is around 25-29 years old. Sperm quality begins to decline at 30. At 45, men begin to experience a significant decrease in semen volume. Older men can also take longer to conceive a child.
Male fertility generally starts to reduce around age 40 to 45 years when sperm quality decreases. Increasing male age reduces the overall chances of pregnancy and increases time to pregnancy (the number of menstrual cycles it takes to become pregnant) and the risk of miscarriage and fetal death.Is it selfish to have kids after 40? ›
You'll be around for less time in your child's life
Since you are older, it stands to reason that you'll be around for your child for less of their life than if you had them earlier in your life. So the idea here is if you aren't maximizing the amount of time you can be around, then you're being selfish.
Can I have a healthy baby at 42? ›
Most people over 40 have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. But there are some things you need to think about. You'll want to be sure to get good antenatal care.What are the chances of Down syndrome at 40? ›
Risks for chromosome abnormalities by maternal age
The chance of having a child affected by Down syndrome increases from about 1 in 1,250 for a woman who conceives at age 25, to about 1 in 100 for a woman who conceives at age 40.
Women in their early thirties are generally better off than women in their late thirties as ovarian reserve declines sharply in the late thirties. For example, a woman at 30 often has around 100,000-150,000 eggs in reserve. By 35, that number is likely around 80,000.What are the chances of Down syndrome at 37? ›
Older women are more likely to have a baby with a chromosome disorder such as Down syndrome. If you are age 25, the chance of Down syndrome is about 1 in 1,250. If you are age 35, the risk increases to 1 in 400. By age 45, it is 1 in 30.What is pregnancy after 35 called? ›
A “geriatric pregnancy” is an outdated, but still commonly used, term to describe pregnancy in individuals 35 years of age and older. The term “advanced maternal age” is the more recent term to describe pregnant individuals who are over the age of 35.What are the odds of Down syndrome at 38? ›
A 25-year-old has a one in 1,200 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome. By 35 years of age, the risk increases to one in 350—and it becomes one in 100 by the age of 40. The chances of Down syndrome further increase to one in 30 by age 45, according to the National Down Syndrome Society.
Egg quality starts to decline at age 32 and decreases rapidly after 37. Advanced maternal age also heightens the risk of birth defects. Only 28 percent of women, and 35 percent of men, believe age is the number one contributor to female infertility, the AOA survey found.How hard is it to get pregnant at 38? ›
Getting pregnant after age 35 isn't as easy as it is at 25. However, while it can be more challenging, it is possible for many people to have kids later in life. The most important thing is that you seek fertility help right away from your OB/GYN if you're ready to have a family but aren't having luck getting pregnant.Does father's age affect Down syndrome? ›
Fisch and his colleagues found that the rate of Down syndrome steadily increased with advancing paternal age for the maternal age group of 35 to 39 years. The greatest increase, however, was seen in the maternal age group of 40 years and older with increasing paternal age.How many C sections can you have? ›
However, from the current medical evidence, most medical authorities do state that if multiple C-sections are planned, the expert recommendation is to adhere to the maximum number of three.”
What is the most exhausting age to parent? ›
In fact, age 8 is so tough that the majority of the 2,000 parents who responded to the 2020 survey agreed that it was the hardest year, while age 6 was better than expected and age 7 produced the most intense tantrums.Does masturbation cause low sperm count? ›
Frequent male masturbation isn't likely to have much effect on your fertility. Some data shows that optimum semen quality occurs after two to three days of no ejaculation. But other research suggests that men who have normal sperm quality maintain normal sperm motility and concentrations even with daily ejaculation.When is sperm healthiest? ›
As we outlined above, sperm counts are typically highest after waiting for two days, but sperm quality is negatively affected after seven days.What is the oldest a woman has given birth naturally? ›
The oldest verified mother to conceive naturally (listed currently as of 26 January 2017 in the Guinness Records) is Dawn Brooke (Guernsey); she conceived a son at the age of 59 years in 1997.How many babies can a man have in her lifetime? ›
Since men require less time and fewer resources to have kids, the most "prolific" fathers today can have up to about 200 children. The number of children men can have depends on the health of their sperm and other factors like how many women they can reproduce with.How do you know if a man is fertile? ›
Tests for Infertility in Men
Because most causes of male infertility are related to sperm, the first test a urological health care provider will perform is a sperm count and analysis. Too low of a sperm count, misshapen sperm, and “lazy” or less-active-than-normal sperm can all lead to fertility issues.
Among adults 40-49, about one in four men and one in six women are childless.What percentage of 40 year olds have no kids? ›
|Characteristic||Percentage of childless women|
|30 to 34 years old||33.6%|
|35 to 39 years old||20%|
|40 to 44 years old||15%|
|45 to 50 years old||15.4%|
- Con: There Is A Higher Risk Of Miscarriage. ...
- Pro: You'll Be More Financially Secure. ...
- Con: It Can Cause A Strain On Your Heart. ...
- Pro: You'll Get To Make Lots Of New Friends. ...
- Con: You Will Have To Make Some Sacrifices. ...
- Pro: It Will Give You A New Lease On Life.
The U.S. National Birth Defects Prevention Study found that women greater than age 40 are at increased risk of having babies with multiple types of heart defects, genital abnormalities, skull deformities, and esophageal malformations.
How common is it to get pregnant at 42? ›
So on average, when we look at large groups of women, of women who want to conceive at age 40, about half will get pregnant naturally. But that decreases quickly to perhaps 20% to 25% by age 42 to 43. And by age 45, it's quite rare to become pregnant naturally.Are my eggs still good at 40? ›
After this age, egg quality slowly deteriorates until around age 37, and then deteriorates more rapidly until about age 42. After roughly age 42, fertility for most women basically falls off a cliff. While some women in their mid-40s will achieve a pregnancy, many more will be disappointed.What happens if Down syndrome test is positive? ›
A positive screening test result means that your baby's chance of having Down syndrome is higher than average. Your test results may include a number that describes how high the risk is. But a high risk doesn't mean your baby will have Down syndrome.What race is most likely to get Down syndrome? ›
Results: The odds ratio and population attributable risk of Down syndrome due to maternal age of 35 years or older were highest for Mexican Americans, intermediate for African Americans, and lowest for non-Hispanic Whites.How common are birth defects after 40? ›
MATERNAL AND FETAL RISK IN PREGNANCY AT AN ADVANCED AGE
The odds of a mother over 40 giving birth to a child with chromosomal abnormalities also significantlyincreases. At age 35, the risk of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities is 1/192, but by age 40, the risk climbs to 1/66 (almost 2%).
A woman's peak reproductive years are between the late teens and late 20s. By age 30, fertility (the ability to get pregnant) starts to decline. This decline happens faster once you reach your mid-30s. By 45, fertility has declined so much that getting pregnant naturally is unlikely.Are my eggs still good at 35? ›
But the most important factor affecting fertility in women over age 35 is a decrease in egg quality. This decrease in quality impairs fertilization and embryo development, and reduces the chances of achieving a healthy pregnancy.How do I check my egg count? ›
A vaginal ultrasound is the best way to accurately assess and count the number of antral—or resting—follicles in each ovary. These sacs contain immature eggs that may potentially develop in the future. Counting the number of follicles is called an antral follicle count (AFC), which is performed via an ultrasound.Can stress cause Down syndrome? ›
Down syndrome, which arises from a chromosome defect, is likely to have a direct link with the increase in stress levels seen in couples during the time of conception, say Surekha Ramachandran, founder of Down Syndrome Federation of India, who has been studying about the same ever since her daughter was diagnosed with ...What causes Down syndrome during pregnancy? ›
Down syndrome is usually caused by an error in cell division called “nondisjunction.” Nondisjunction results in an embryo with three copies of chromosome 21 instead of the usual two. Prior to or at conception, a pair of 21st chromosomes in either the sperm or the egg fails to separate.
How to tell if you have Down syndrome during pregnancy ultrasound? ›
- enlarged brain ventricles (ventriculomegaly)
- smaller-than-normal or absent nasal bone.
- increased thickness of the nuchal fold.
- small, bright point on the heart (intracardiac hyperechogenic focus)
Giving birth after 35 is risky.
Pregnant women past the age of 35 have an increased risk of pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, preeclampsia (high blood pressure) and intrauterine growth restriction (causing premature delivery).
After age 35, there's a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications that might lead to a C-section delivery. The risk of chromosomal conditions is higher. Babies born to older mothers have a higher risk of certain chromosomal conditions, such as Down syndrome. The risk of pregnancy loss is higher.Is 37 too old for kids? ›
If you've waited until a bit later in life to try to conceive, you may wonder if you're too old to have a baby. A pregnancy after age 35 automatically puts you in the “advanced maternal age” (AMA) category. But try your best to not let that label intimidate you — successful pregnancy after 35 is still common!How likely is a 37 year old woman to get pregnant? ›
Results from a study even found that 82% of 35-39 year-old women are likely to conceive with a year if they are having sex at least twice a week. However, many women will also struggle to conceive at this age owing to their decreasing chances of getting pregnant, and will so seek some fertility assistance.How can I increase my fertility after 37? ›
- stop smoking.
- reduce alcohol intake.
- take folic acid.
- follow a healthy diet.
If your menstrual cycle lasts 28 days and your period arrives like clockwork, it's likely that you'll ovulate on day 14. That's halfway through your cycle. Your fertile window begins on day 10. You're more likely to get pregnant if you have sex at least every other day between days 10 and 14 of a 28-day cycle.Can I have my baby at 38? ›
The answer for pregnant mothers is that giving birth at 38 weeks is not premature, it is completely possible to give birth. From week 37 - 40, the fetus is considered full term and can be safely born, but the ideal time for the baby to be born is at 39 - 40 weeks.At what age do men stop producing sperm? ›
Although men never stop producing sperm throughout their lives, sperm production does begin decreasing after age 35. Motility, volume and genetic quality of sperm of older men are less likely to achieve a successful pregnancy even in younger women.Is it hard to get pregnant at 36? ›
Getting pregnant after age 35 isn't as easy as it is at 25. However, while it can be more challenging, it is possible for many people to have kids later in life. The most important thing is that you seek fertility help right away from your OB/GYN if you're ready to have a family but aren't having luck getting pregnant.
Is 37 too old for IVF? ›
The Argument for Allowing IVF for Older Patients
Most fertility clinics set an age limit, often between 42 and 45 years old, for a woman to use her own eggs. However, the ASRM committee opinion concludes that "limited treatment may be provided after a process of explicit education and examination of values."
- Absent or late periods.
- Shorter-than-average menstrual cycles.
- Irregular periods with a heavy or light flow.
- History of miscarriage.
30 percent get pregnant within the first cycle (about one month). 60 percent get pregnant within three cycles (about three months). 80 percent get pregnant within six cycles (about six months). 85 percent get pregnant within 12 cycles (about one year).How do you test if a woman is infertile? ›
- Blood tests. Samples of your blood can be tested for a hormone called progesterone to check whether you're ovulating. ...
- Chlamydia test. Chlamydia is an STI that can affect fertility. ...
- Ultrasound scan. ...
- X-ray. ...
Masturbating doesn't affect your fertility at all. There are many myths about infertility. Some people believe that masturbation can cause infertility. However, no matter your genitals, gender, or age, masturbation can't affect your ability to become pregnant or carry a pregnancy to term.What are 4 causes for female infertility? ›
- Age. The quality and quantity of a woman's eggs begin to decline with age. ...
- Smoking. Besides damaging your cervix and fallopian tubes, smoking increases your risk of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. ...
- Weight. Being overweight or significantly underweight may affect ovulation. ...
- Sexual history. ...
Trouble conceiving: Starting in their early 30s, women become less fertile, and it may take them longer to get pregnant. Complications during pregnancy: Women older than age 35 have a higher risk for diabetes and high blood pressure during pregnancy. Older women are also more likely to be pregnant with multiples.Does having kids age you? ›
The researchers found that women who had live births had telomeres that were an average of 4.2 percent shorter than their counterparts with no children. This equates to around 11 years of accelerated cellular aging, said Anna Pollack, an epidemiologist at George Mason University and the lead researcher of the study.