Pregnancy after 40
Dr. Michael Foley, MD, is chair of the Obstetrics and Gynecology department at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. For more information on this topic, please talk with your doctor or call 602-230-CARE.
Question: Is it safe for women in their early 40s to try to get pregnant?
Answer: Perspectives on “advanced maternal age” have changed, as research studies and new technology provide physicians with better information. Technically, women over 35 are categorized as "advanced maternal age" because they encounter more risks with pregnancy. This age was chosen years ago because, at age 35, the risk of a genetic abnormality in the fetus was equal to miscarriage risk if a pregnant woman chose to undergo invasive genetic testing like amniocentesis.
Testing advancements such as the non-invasive first trimester ultrascreen enable some patients to avoid the risks associated with invasive options. Thus, age is no longer the only factor considered when assessing a patient's ability to conceive safely.
Because a woman’s fertility and the health of her eggs decline as she ages, a woman over 40 may have difficulty conceiving. If she becomes pregnant, she will have an increased chance of miscarriage due to possible genetic problems with the fertilized egg. As women age, their risk for conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure also increase, which are further complicated by pregnancy.
However, a healthy woman in her early 40s who is able to conceive and sustain her pregnancy, does not have a family history of other illnesses, and maintains proper weight and physical fitness can have a positive outcome with little or no complications.
Pre-conception counseling is strongly encouraged for anyone wishing to become pregnant, and particularly for women in their late 30s and early 40s. During this counseling, a woman’s fertility and opportunity to conceive will be reviewed, with age, health history, weight and other factors considered. Because every patient is different, each woman is evaluated individually and provided with recommendations suited to her situation.