Regardless of your stage in life, having a baby is an exciting event that should be embraced and cherished. While there are some additional risks you need to be aware of, there are also plenty of benefits to having a child when you're over 40 years of age. Research suggests that women who have a child in their 40s tend to have more intelligent, healthier, and safer children. Before getting to the good stuff, it's crucial to understand the real risks associated with an older pregnancy.
The Myth of Age
If you get pregnant in your late 40s, the hardest part of the pregnancy will be making it through the first trimester. As you age, your eggs and chromosomes begin to become damaged, and the best option for pregnancy at this age is typically an egg donor. While this may come as bad news, the fact is that older women do have a higher risk of miscarriage. It's important to know the risks before having a child to mitigate against the unexpected loss of an unborn child. However, there is some good news in all this. Age does matter, but it's your biological age and not your chronological age that may matter most. There are women in their 40s who have the health and vitality of some women in their mid-twenties. If you're in good physical shape, avoid smoking and limit your alcohol consumption, then you have an increased chance of having a healthy pregnancy.
Just take some celebrity examples; singers like Janet Jackson who is pregnant for the first time at 51 and Gwen Stefani who gave birth to her third child, Apollo, at age 44 or Iman who had her first child with David Bowie at 45. All proving that age can just be a number and that although significant, it does not have to exclude you from a late pregnancy.
Age Is Less Important Than You Think
While age may have an effect on your pregnancy, there isn't a specific age where your eggs are no longer fertile. What you may not realise is that a woman who is 34 is more similar to a 20-year-old woman biologically. You read that correctly, an older woman is more likely to have a healthier child than someone who is only 18 years old. Women who have children in their late teens tend to experience more health-related issues than a woman who is in her mid- to late-30s. For the 40-year-old age group, one in five women will have trouble conceiving. However, maintaining a healthy weight can guard against many of the complications of a late pregnancy.
The Importance of an Ultrasound
If you plan on having a child after the age of 40, it's necessary to do some extra planning. It's important to get an ultrasound and other tests to mitigate your chances for problems during a pregnancy. An ultrasound has several benefits, and it can help you prepare for and reduce the chances of experiencing problems during your pregnancy. At the outset, an ultrasound can confirm that you are pregnant. It can also determine if your baby's heart is beating and help you prepare for the possibility of carrying more than one child. Ultrasounds are essential for estimating the baby's due date, and it can be used to check the growth of your baby to make sure the pregnancy is progressing normally. For women over 40, it's especially important to have an ultrasound to check for birth defects like spina bifida, Down syndrome, cleft lip and heart defects.
Checks to Limit Risk
During weeks 11 to 14, a blood test is typically given to check for any problems with a baby's chromosomes. One of the problems with an older pregnancy is that there is a greater chance for chromosomal problems in women in their 40s. When used along with an ultrasound, the possibility of more serious conditions like Down syndrome can be determined. The first trimester screen tends to produce more accurate results by measuring pregnancy-associated plasma protein-A and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). By measuring these substances, it's possible to get a more accurate picture of the health of the baby and whether the baby is likely to experience problems.
The Financial Considerations
If you're planning on having a pregnancy after the age of 40, there is plenty for you to look forward to. However, it's also important to assess the risks associated with your pregnancy and complications that may affect the life of your child. Older parents should aim to prepare their children for an adult life without the support of a younger parent. In the early post-teen years, many children need a bit of extra financial help from their parents. Preparing for retirement may not be a possibility if your child is currently getting ready to attend college.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in 96 babies is born to a woman aged 40 to 44 in the United States. It's important to look into college funds for your child and the possibility of a small trust fund to help them out later in life if you're not around to contribute. Setting aside money tends to be easier for an older woman because the late 40s tend to be your peak earning years, and it's the right time to put extra money aside for the future. However, consulting with a financial planner is a sound step toward ensuring your child has a good future.
The Benefits of an Older Pregnancy
Many of the risks associated with having a pregnancy when you're older are simply obstacles that you'll need to prepare yourself to overcome. A woman in her 40s is better able to manage her life and finances. Despite the biological obstacles, the social advantages may outweigh the risks for many women. Older women are also more likely to make sacrifices to ensure the longevity of their child. According to research, women who are able to have children in their 30s and 40s tend to be healthier overall, and they are likely to live much longer than women who did not have a child in their 30s. Research is showing that women who have children later may even live closer to 100 years of age. The extra longevity can compensate for the drawbacks associated with having a child at an older age.
If it's your dream to have your own child, don't let age be the barrier to accomplishing all that you want to in your life. Be aware of the risks, concentrate on the positives and take the tests necessary to mitigate any risks that might lie ahead during your pregnancy.