Is it really harder to get pregnant after 35? What do you need to know about the medical risks of pregnancy after your mid-thirties, and how can you improve your odds?
When does your fertility decline?
A woman's fertility reaches its peak between the ages of 18 and 25. After her mid-twenties, a woman's chances of getting pregnant will gradually start declining. This does not mean that it's necessarily going to be hard for a couple to conceive after the female partner turns 30, 35, or even beyond.
The statistical chances of getting pregnant easily will drop, though, and your risks of being infertile will go up. Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have. By 35, many of these eggs will have gone (one is released at each ovulation), and the health of the remaining eggs may have been influenced negatively as well. Lifestyle factors such as smoking cigarettes, consuming alcohol and eating junk food will all leave their mark on a woman's egg quality. As women age, their partner is also likely to be older. This, too, plays a big role in the decreased likelihood of achieving pregnancy soon after deciding to try to conceive a baby. If you are over 35 and hoping to get pregnant, you should take your decreased chances into account. At the same time, there is no reason to despair plenty of women who are 35 and older get pregnant very easily, and most of us are very happy that we chose not to have children in our younger and more unstable years!
Is pregnancy after 35 high risk?
If you are over 35 when you get pregnant, your OBGYN will classify you as an elderly primigravida. That sounds rather insulting, doesn't it? Of course, this doesn't mean that you are ready to be carted off to the geriatric ward. The risk of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities and other birth defects does rise with age. This risk also means that women are increasingly likely to have a first-trimester miscarriage as they get older. By your early forties, you will have a one in four chance of miscarrying a pregnancy. Pregnant women beyond their mid-thirties have a higher risk of pregnancy complications as well. Pregnancy induced high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, low birth weight and premature babies, and even stillbirth are also more frequent occurrences in mothers in their late thirties and forties. Some doctors will indeed stick the high risk label on your pregnancy for this reason, regardless of your health. You can do a lot to avert these dangers by taking good care of yourself and your body, however.
Tips for conceiving after 35
Besides "get yourself a younger partner", there are really no special tips on how to get pregnant after 35 that don't also apply to younger women. If you're over 35 and have been thinking about trying for a baby for a while, you probably know most of those tips already. Let's go over them again, in case you missed some.
See your doctor
If you are trying to conceive, now is the time to see your doctor. Get a PAP smear, get a general medical examination that checks your weight, blood pressure and all that other stuff, and get tested for sexually transmitted infections just in case. Also discuss your family's medical history and your partner's with your doctor, and ask whether you are a candidate for preconception genetic counseling. Your doctor will probably also tell you about nutrition and exercise, which are of course the next points on our list.
Women who want to get pregnant should take folic acid and a multivitamin supplement. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects like spina bifida, and increases fertility in both men and women. Don't live on a junk food diet cook meals from scratch at home, and stay away from processed foods as much as possible.
Regular exercise and a healthy weight increase your chances of conceiving. If you are a professional athlete or a bodybuilder, you may be overdoing it and your fertility could be suffering. Swimming, pilates, cycling and aerobics are all offer great workouts.
No smoking and drinking
Obviously, smoking and drinking alcohol are out. They both decrease your chances of getting pregnant and can also be very dangerous for a fetus if you do get pregnant. The same goes for your partner.