Pregnancy after 40

Fact checked

By SheCares Editorial Team | Updated: Sep 15, 2022

By the time a woman is in her 40s, she is all too aware that fact that her biological clock is ticking.

Despite natural limitations to female fertility, conceiving naturally might still be possible as long as she takes prompt action. If not, assisted reproduction is readily available to meet her motherhood dreams. Understanding what pregnancy at 40 entails is key to using one's time and resources in the most optimal way.

Keep on reading to learn about having a baby 40, including what chances women have, what risks they might be faced with, and what are the best ways to have a healthy pregnancy at 40 against all odds!

Pregnancy after 40

Getting Pregnant at 40

Getting Pregnant at 40

While women older than 35 are advised to try to conceive naturally for six months before seeking fertility help, those past 40 are instructed to consult with their doctors right away to weigh their options and increase the likelihood of conception.

There are two approaches to getting pregnant at 40 and beyond:

Getting Pregnant at 40 Naturally

Without a doubt, female fertility past 40 is significantly diminished. Although spontaneous and natural conception is possible for some women, most 40-year-olds face the following reproductive challenges:1,2,3

  • The supply of eggs in the ovaries, called ovarian reserve, is decreasing more rapidly in the 40s. By menopause, there are no eggs left in the ovaries, and natural pregnancy is not possible.

  • Up to 80% of the eggs that remain in the ovaries have chromosomal abnormalities, marking them unviable for fertilization or implantation in the uterus. As such, miscarriage rates are high in pregnancies at 40.

  • Women might be entering perimenopause in their mid-40s with irregular periods or irregular ovulation, including anovulatory cycles, making natural conception less probable.

The biggest challenge for women in their 40s is their egg supply. Since they enter menopause at the age of 51 on average, getting pregnant naturally in those few years prior to that is highly unlikely.4 Once confirmed menopausal, women's ability to conceive is over.

Getting Pregnant after 40 with ARTs

If natural conception is not an option, women can achieve pregnancy at 40 with the help of assisted reproductive technology (ART). There are three possible options available to them:5,6,7

  • Use their own fresh eggs. Although undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) at 40 with one's own eggs is technically an option, it is not an effective approach as by the age 44, the rates of a successful IVF is only 1%. Specialists often agree that 43 is the cut off age for IVF with one's own eggs.

  • Use their own, previously frozen eggs. Egg freezing at a younger age as a form of fertility preservation gives women in their 40s and well into their 50s a 48-51% chance of pregnancy.

  • Use a younger donor's eggs. Because the uterus does not age similarly to the ovaries, women past their 40s and 50s can get pregnant with younger donor eggs since success rates are 48-51%, no matter a woman's age.

No matter which option a woman chooses, it will be beneficial for her to improve her odds of pregnancy by managing her chronic conditions before getting pregnant; maintaining a wholesome fertility diet and regular exercise; and improving her menstrual cycle and ovulation with fertility supplements, like Macafem.

Being Pregnant at 40

Being pregnant at 40

Similarly to pregnancies at 35, those to mothers in their 40s are often challenged by the fact that women in that age group are more likely to have pre-existing conditions, including diabetes or hypertension, which may put additional strain on her and her baby's health.

Consequently, a pregnancy over 40 is classified as a high-risk pregnancy.

Risks of Pregnancy after 40

In comparison to younger mothers, those past 40 are faced with higher risks of the following pregnancy complications:8,9,10,11

How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy at 40

Despite known risks of being pregnant after 40, women can have healthy and safe pregnancies thanks to additional prenatal care and more caution.

  • Regular and frequent prenatal visits, oftentimes in collaboration with several specialists
  • Additional prenatal testing, including genetic testing for chromosomal abnormalities
  • Prenatal vitamins of at least 400 mcg of folic acid, preferably starting one month before conceiving11
  • Healthy weight gain, which for women with normal pre-pregnancy weight equals 25-35 lb. (11-16 kg)12
  • Pregnancy diet with complex carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats
  • Low- to moderate-level exercise during pregnancy
  • Reducing stress during pregnancy with yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises

Key Takeaways

The thought of getting pregnant at 40 can be very stressful before a woman even begins her conception efforts. She is immediately bombarded with data about the dramatic speed of fertility decline after 40, depletion of ovarian reserve, and increased risks of serious pregnancy complications if she does manage to successfully conceive. While all of this is true, and female fertility is time-limited, many women in their early 40s go on to have natural pregnancies, while those who cannot are able to safely and successfully get pregnant with assisted reproduction. Despite associated risks, most women have healthy pregnancies over 40 thanks to more thorough care and attention they and their babies receive from their medical professionals. The key to ultimate fulfillment of one's motherhood dreams is to act quickly and wisely, using one's resources in the most appropriate manner.