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Fertility after Forty

Monday, February 11th, 2013

Many of my older patients come to me to find out whether or not it’s too late for them to have a baby. It’s not surprising in the modern world, as many women are waiting to start families until they have reached a comfortable place in their career and financial stability. However, there are risks to waiting. I’ve discussed these risks before, and I don’t necessarily recommend trying to have a baby after your biological clock has proverbially run out of batteries. However, I understand the desire for women older than 40 to reproduce, and it’s okay to try with the assistance of your doctor and OBGYN. The childbearing years (fertility years) typically are from 15 to 44 years of age, according to the definition.

If you’re hoping to have a baby after your early thirties have come and gone, discuss the risks thoroughly with your doctor. You should consider genetic consulting to make sure chromosomal abnormalities aren’t a threat, and you should be in the best shape of your life if you expect your body to take on the task of birth.

Once you start trying, you’ll realize you’re a lot less fertile than you used to be. By the time you turn forty, you only have approximately 2% of the eggs you were born with, so there is less of a chance for successful fertilization.

After age 40, you might want to consider fertility treatments if you’re serious about trying to conceive. Additionally, there are some natural ways you can boost your fertility. By achieving a healthy weight, you will improve the health of your reproductive organs, which is essential in the fertilization process. Eat a healthy diet and stay active. Relaxation is another proven method for enhancing fertility, so enroll in a yoga class and avoid stress when you can

If you really want to give birth after age 40, no one can stop you. Technology allows us to see into the medical future of our babies, so take advantage of it and decide if the risks are worth it. Just remember, conceiving and having a baby after age 40 is one thing.  Raising a child after age 40, is another. We all have different plans in life, and though yours might be riskier than someone else’s, there is no reason for you to deny yourself the joy of motherhood.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.