Your 20s were all about achieving your goals. Your focus was on getting that big career break or just exploring the world, meeting new people, and going to new places. Now, you’re in your 30s and 40s, and you can’t stop thinking about building a family of your own. But the problem is that you’ve read a lot of not-so-nice things about getting pregnant after you clock 35. You’re not sure if that’s the direction you should be heading. Here we’ll dispel six common myths you’ve probably heard and believed but are false!
Myth 1: You can’t get pregnant after 35
Well, you sure can get pregnant in your 30s and 40s! The only thing that’s changed is that you don’t have the same number and quality of eggs in your ovaries as you did in your 20s or younger. You can get pregnant naturally, just like women in their 20s. But it may be somewhat difficult. Your chances of getting pregnant reduce every month after the age of 35. But you could get lucky if you identify and track your ovulatory cycle.
If you find it difficult conceiving in your late 30s or 40s, there are several assisted reproductive techniques, including IVF, which can help you conceive. Your doctor may also recommend fertility drugs to boost the maturation and release of eggs from your ovaries.
Myth 2: Late pregnancy produces unhealthy babies
You might have heard that women who get pregnant after 35 are at a high risk of having babies with chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome. While the risk of birth defects is higher in older women, the overall risk is small. Women in their 30s and 40s still give birth to healthy babies.
The science behind that myth lies in the declining egg quality that comes with age. From the time you hit puberty and start menstruating, the ovaries select and release the healthiest eggs every month. This means that by the time you clock 35, you may have a larger stock of unhealthy eggs than healthy ones. However, you still do have healthy eggs.
For context, when you are 35 years old, your risk of having a baby with Down syndrome is about 2 in 1000, so you still have about 99.998% chances of having a baby without Down syndrome. This risk, however, is lower in your 20s.
Myth 3: You can’t have a vaginal birth
Although your chances of a vaginal birth reduce as you age, no rule says you can’t deliver vaginally. As a woman ages, her pelvic floor muscles become weaker due to her declining hormone levels. This may make vaginal delivery a not-so-favorable option. Further, since the risk of pregnancy-related complications such as preeclampsia and placental issues are higher in late pregnancy, you are more likely to be offered a cesarean delivery to urgently and safely deliver your baby.
However, these are not cast in stone. With adequate pelvic floor exercises during pregnancy, you may have a seamless vaginal delivery. Further, if you pay close attention to your health, use your prenatal vitamins, and monitor your vital health signs, you may successfully lower your risk of those pregnancy-related problems.
You may be wondering if you could still enjoy sex with your partner after vaginal birth; the answer is yes. Additionally, with advances in vaginal rejuvenation procedures, the tightness and shape of your vagina can be restored significantly after your vaginal delivery.
Myth 4: You have no more health risks than a younger woman
This is untrue. As a woman ages, her body dynamics change. The body becomes more stressed when pregnant. Your health risks are higher when pregnant in your late 30s and 40s than when pregnant much earlier. Your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and pregnancy-related complications are higher in late pregnancies.
However, this does not mean you can’t have a healthy pregnancy. Eat right, exercise more, and take your prenatal vitamins, and nothing is stopping you from having a healthy pregnancy journey. If you have any health conditions, communicate with your doctor about the best measures to take to keep you and your baby healthy.
Myth 5: If you are starting menopause, you can’t get pregnant
One of the fears women in their late 40s have about pregnancy is that they may not be able to get pregnant. Well, this is also not true.
Before the ovaries stop releasing eggs and your menstrual function ceases, which is known as menopause, there is a 5-10 year period where your eggs’ quality and quantity decline rapidly. This phase is called perimenopause, and you can still get pregnant in this phase. However, you are most likely to require assisted fertility techniques to get pregnant.
Myth 6: You can’t conceive using your own eggs
Again, this is false. Although your eggs’ quantity and quality diminish as you grow older, you still have healthy eggs that can be fertilized by sperm cells. In your 40s, you have a 5-25 percent chance of achieving pregnancy with your own eggs. Boosting your diet and engaging in other healthy habits also improve your fertility as you age.
For women who may find it difficult to conceive in their 40s, the good news is that you can achieve pregnancy using donor eggs regardless of age. And older women using donor eggs have a higher birth rate than younger women using their own eggs.
At 30 or 40, you may have achieved many of your career and business goals and want to have your dream family. But the stories and blog posts you read about late pregnancies are holding you back. You fear your chances may be negligible or your risks may be too high, but these are simply old wives’ tales. You can still have a safe, healthy pregnancy in your 30s and 40s. Forget those myths you’ve believed and seek the right information.