Pregnancy after age 35 poses its own unique set of challenges. This doesn’t mean it is impossible, but it can be a little bit more difficult for older moms to conceive.
Every woman’s body is different, but middle age tends to create similar problems across the board. This doesn’t mean pregnancy isn’t an option. Certain issues may be more likely, and your pregnancy might be a little more difficult to achieve. But there are answers to a lot of concerns for older moms who are ready to start a family into their 30s and even 40s.
Egg-Related Fertility Issues
Perhaps the most common challenge women over 35 face in trying to conceive is a decrease in the frequency of ovulation. This is an age-related decline in fertility. As women advance in age, they start to have occasional cycles in which an egg is not released from the fallopian tubes. Additionally, both the quality and quantity of a woman's eggs tend to decrease as the woman reaches her thirties and forties.
Reproductive and General Health Concerns
Beyond egg-related issues, older moms may face the additional challenges of a decrease in cervical fluid; fibroids and other disorders of the uterus, such as endometriosis; chronic health problems, like diabetes and high blood pressure; or scar tissue around the cervix or fallopian tubes as a result of surgery or infection.
Risk of Miscarriage
Women over 35 are also more likely to have miscarriages, and this can be extremely difficult psychologically. Typically, these miscarriages occur due to chromosomal abnormalities, which are more likely to occur in the eggs of older women. The chance of a miscarriage in normal conditions up to age 30 is about 8% and steadily rises from there. At 35, studies show about a 16% chance, while 5 more years can double that number, reaching about 33% at 40, and 60% by 44.
Improving the Chances of Conception
To give your body and potential baby its best chance, start by scheduling an appointment with your OB/GYN before you even start trying to get pregnant. During a preconception appointment, your doctor will make sure your body is physically prepared to have a baby. The doctor will also review your lifestyle, medical history, and any medications you might take. This is also a good time to discuss any concerns you or your partner might have.
As you begin attempting to conceive, remember it takes older moms a little longer—one to two years on average. Do your best to stay positive about the process. Stress can be extremely prohibitive and make the journey more work and less fun. To that end, healthy women are more likely to conceive—not just physically healthy, but emotionally.
Things that may negatively affect fertility include alcohol consumption, smoking cigarettes, and caffeine. Being underweight or overweight can interference with hormones as well as impair fertility. Depression or anxiety can also have negative effects on attempts at conception. Eat well, exercise regularly at a level appropriate for you, and make sure any chronic disorders are managed.
Knowing when you ovulate can make a big difference, also. Tracking your menstrual cycle can help you pinpoint when an egg is ready to be fertilized. There’s also a lot of simple things you can do to increase the chances of conception. For example, make love in the morning when sperm tends to be at its most vigorous, then stay horizontal for about 10 minutes. And remember that there are still plenty of options, even if conceiving naturally doesn’t seem to be working.