There are many advantages to waiting until later in life to have children; most people in their 40s enjoy more financial and relationship stability than they did in their 20s and 30s. However, a woman’s fertility will begin to decline around the age of 36, making it far more difficult for women in their 40s to get pregnant without the help of a fertility specialist. At Houston Fertility Center, Dr. Sonja Kristiansen and her team have experience helping women in their 40s conceive.
Problems Faced by Women in Their 40s
Women in their 40s face increased difficulty getting and staying pregnant, and an increased risk of pregnancy complications and birth defects.
- A decline in egg supply: During puberty, females have between 300,000 and 400,000 eggs. This seems like plenty, but in actuality females lose about 13,000 eggs per year. By the time women reach their late 30s and early 40s, this egg supply has dimished considerably; further the eggs that remain are more likely to be affected by chromosomal defects.
- Miscarriage rates: Partially due to poor egg quality, women in their 40s experience higher miscarriage rates, with about 35 percent of women aged 40 to 44 experiencing a miscarriage, and 50 percent of women over 45 experiencing a miscarriage. Compare this to a 10 percent miscarriage rate at the age of 20, and a 12 percent miscarriage rate at the age of 30.
- Pregnancy complications: Women in the 40s are twice as likely to experience pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure and diabetes than women in their 20s. In addition, placental problems, birth or delivery problems, premature births, low birth weight, and stillbirth rates are higher in women over the age of 40.
- Genetic problems: Due to poor egg quality, the odds of having a child with birth defects or genetic problems are higher for women in their 40s.
Although these facts may be disheartening, there is hope. Many women in their 40s achieve pregnancy with the help of fertility doctors.
IVF, or in-vitro fertilization, is one of the most common fertility treatments recommended to women in their 40s. With IVF, medication is used to stimulate the production of multiple eggs. These eggs are then retrieved from the ovaries and mixed with sperm; in some cases, a single sperm is injected into the egg (ICSI). After a few days, the most viable looking embryos are transferred to the uterus.
While IVF using the patient’s own eggs has been successful in women in the lower 40s, it is less likely to be successful in women in ther mid to late 40s. In these case, Dr. Kristiansen may recommend the use of donor eggs.
It is important to note that, just as a woman’s egg count and quality diminished with age, so too does a man’s sperm quality. Studies have shown an increased risk of genetic problems in the sperm of older man as compared to that of younger men.
Contact Houston Fertility Center to schedule a consultation with Dr. Kristiansen.