Pregnancy Challenges and Risks When You're Over 45

Image of a sleeping newborn baby

Pregnancy over 45 is still relatively rare, but more women in this age group are becoming mothers than ever before. Even though medical science can't undo the effects of aging, fertility treatments are still available to help women in their 40s achieve their dreams of motherhood.

Menopause and Fertility

The typical age of menopause is between 42 and 58, with the majority of women experiencing menopause around age 50. However, it is important to keep in mind that no two women are exactly alike. While pregnancy over 45 is unlikely, it is still a possibility even without the use of fertility treatments.

Menopause is not considered complete until you've gone a full 12 months without menstruating. If you are sexually active and have not finished menopause, you still need to use birth control if you do not want to become pregnant. Data on unplanned pregnancy rates among older women is scarce, but a 2001 study by the National Center for Health Statistics found that 40 percent of pregnancies among women ages 40 and older were unintended. Many of these women incorrectly assumed that the early signs of menopause indicated they were too old to become pregnant.

Family Planning Considerations

Even though pregnancy at 45 is rare, there are many reasons a woman might want to have a baby at this age. Some women spent their 20s and 30s building a career, while others simply never met the right person until their 40s. It is also common for women to want to have a child if they have remarried after divorce.

Questions you should ask yourself if you're considering trying to get pregnant include:

  • What type of maternity coverage does your health insurance offer? Older women often have pregnancy complications that can require expensive medical care.
  • How do you feel about fertility treatments? Johns Hopkins Medicine found that only about 1 percent of women over the age of 45 were able to conceive using their own eggs. IVF with donor eggs is the most common way to conceive over age 45.
  • Do you feel financially able to raise a child? Can you handle the expense of a baby and manage to save for retirement?
  • Do you feel like you will be able to physically keep up with the demands of raising a child? Can you see yourself having the energy to play sports with a teenager?
  • Have you thought about what would happen if you became seriously ill while your child was still at home?
  • Do you have a strong support system in place? How will you handle questions or concerns from friends and family members regarding your age?

Managing the Risks for Pregnancy Over 45

For older mothers, pregnancy does carry some potential risks. If you are considering trying to conceive, it is important to be aware of these factors.

  • Half of pregnancies for women over age 45 end in miscarriage.
  • You are almost twice as likely as a younger woman to require a cesarean birth.
  • You have a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes.
  • You have an increased chance of developing high blood pressure.
  • The risk of having a baby with Down Syndrome rises to 1 in 30 at age 45. Other genetic defects become more prevalent as well.

To reduce the pregnancy risks associated with advanced maternal age, doctors recommend:

If you are trying to become pregnant, your doctor can provide you with more specific information after evaluating your general health and family medical history. He can also refer you to a fertility specialist who can help you decide which treatments are most likely to be successful.

Additional Information

For more information about having a baby in your 40s, please review the following articles from LoveToKnow Pregnancy:

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Pregnancy Challenges and Risks When You're Over 45