The U.S. National Birth Defects Prevention Study found that women greater than age 40 are at increased risk of having babies with multiple types of heart defects, genital abnormalities, skull deformities, and esophageal malformations.
Most women over 40 have healthy pregnancies and babies. However, it can sometimes take longer to get pregnant and some people experience complications.
Rate of women getting pregnant in their 40s is increasing and have more than doubled since 1990. Nearly one birth in five is to women over the age of 35.
As an older mum, you’re more likely to conceive more than 1 baby. This may be through natural conception or through assisted conception such as IVF. Carrying more than 1 baby can make pregnancy more complicated, especially if you’re older.
Being an older mum sometimes means that your body has to work harder than if you were younger. You are more likely to develop a health condition and are more likely to need help to give birth. You’re also more likely to have pre-existing health conditions, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, especially if you’re overweight. But try to remember that most women will still have healthy pregnancies.
Are there more risks if you’re pregnant over 40?
Statistically, there are higher risk factors from the age of 35 and the risks increase as you get older. But try not to let this worry you as most pregnancies will be healthy.
Your age may affect how well the placenta is able to develop. This could make other complications more likely, including:
- having a baby with a low birth weight
- low-lying placenta or placenta praevia
- placental abruption.
Your midwife and GP are trained to care for pregnant women in their 40s but you may also be referred to a consultant. In some hospitals and maternity units, women over 40 will be under consultant-led care. This depends on your hospital’s policy.
What are the risks of having a baby at 43?
In women 40 years or over , the risk of pregnancy complications, such as high blood pressure, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes, increases. The rate of birth abnormalities or genetic conditions in the baby also increases.
- uterine fibroids.
- disorders of the fallopian tubes.
Which complications are more common in women over 40?
Older mothers seem more likely to complications problems in pregnancy and childbirth. You’re more likely to experience problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, placental problems and birth complications. But try not to worry too much. Even though some complications are more common in older mums, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they will happen to you.
Women in their 40s are more likely to develop gestational diabetes than women in their 20s or 30s. In the UK, all pregnant women who are considered at risk are offered a test for gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
Having a very big baby
Pregnant women over 40 are more likely to have a very big baby (over 4.5kg or 10lb). Having a very big baby is often also linked to having gestational diabetes. Your midwife will arrange a scan to check the size of your baby if they think your baby is big.
Needing to have a caesarean
Women over 40 are the most likely age group to have a caesarean birth. It is almost twice as likely that you will need a caesarean. This may be because the uterine muscle is less effective as we get older, particularly in first-time mums. If you have additional complications, such as a large baby, your healthcare team may discuss with you about having a planned caesarean.
Having a stillbirth
If you go past your due date, women in their 40s are twice as likely to have a stillbirth compared to women under 35. It’s really important to monitor your baby’s movements. Contact your midwife or maternity unit immediately if you think your baby’s movements have slowed down, stopped or changed. All pregnant women over 40 are offered an induction around their due date, as the risk of stillbirth goes up after 40 weeks.
Being an older mum means you have a higher chance of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality, such as Down’s syndrome and Patau’s syndrome. However, all pregnant women are offered screening tests for chromosomal abnormalities.
What qualifies as a high-risk pregnancy?
A high-risk pregnancy is a pregnancy that involves increased health risks for the pregnant person, unborn baby or both. Certain health conditions and your age (being over 35 or under 17 when pregnant) can make a pregnancy high risk. These pregnancies require close monitoring to reduce the chance of complications
Will I get extra care if I am pregnant over 40?
If you are over 40, your midwife, GP, obstetrician or specialist teams may all be involved in your care during your pregnancy.
Because you are at a higher risk of complications, you will probably be offered more tests to check that you and your baby are healthy as part of your antenatal care. For example, you will have extra scans, tests, and your blood pressure may be checked more often because of the higher risk of pre-eclampsia.
Your midwife will explain more about what your care plan will look like at your booking appointment. You’ll also have the chance to ask any questions or talk about any concerns you have. It’s very important that you attend all your antenatal care appointments so that midwives can spot any problems early and treat them.
Getting pregnant at 42 success stories
Being a late mother is something that a lot of people feel is an impossible / difficult situation. I stand here today to tell you that pregnancy after 40 is completely possible. At the age of 43, I have a healthy and happy one-year-old daughter, who is my pride and joy. I was able to get here with the help of excellent support from a team of maternal experts, and the support and love of my near and dear ones. But I digress. Let me start from the beginning, when my husband and I decided to try for a child.
We’ve been happily married for over 17 years now, and a child was something that both of us wanted right from the start. Unfortunately, the two times that we were able to conceive, at age 27 and 33, resulted in miscarriages. These still haunt me to this day, but the sight of my new-born in my arms today, gives me the support and love I need to help push past those memories. At the time, though, the miscarriages scarred me. After the second one, I decided to stop trying, and my husband respected my feelings and never brought it up again.
When I hit my 40’s, though, the sense that I was missing something important in my life kept hitting me. Finally, after a great deal of thought, I decided to share my thoughts with my husband. Understandably, there was a lot of initial resistance from that end. After all, trying to get pregnant at 40 was not a simple matter to talk about. Finally, after almost a year of discussion and objections, he finally relented to go in with me to meet a doctor at Apollo Cradle. That meeting, I can honestly say, changed my life.
Up until the time I went in to meet my doctor, I didn’t harbour any real hope that this was possible. Everything that I’d ever heard about till that time suggested that it was hard to have a child after you were 35; here I wanted to have a child when I was in my early 40’s! The doctor, did not dismiss the possibility like everyone else I knew had. While she did caution me that there was a great deal of difficulty, she confirmed what I had hoped; that it was possible for me to get pregnant, even at this age.
The reality of pregnancy after 40, though, was daunting. My fertility potential was much lower than it had been when I had tried the first time. My earlier miscarriages also meant that I was at a higher risk of something going wrong. After discussing all the circumstances that had led up to my earlier miscarriages and appropriate investigations, the doctor asked us to consider going in for assisted reproduction better than the term fertility fertility treatments, like In Vitro Fertilization. After debating about this for a few weeks, my husband and I decided to take her advice and try again, this time with fertility treatments to support us.
Over the course of a year, the doctors at Apollo Cradle started me on fertility medication, to help stimulate my egg production. In tandem, a number of blood tests and ultrasounds were done, to example my hormone levels and the state of my ovaries. When the doctors were satisfied that I was taking well to the treatment, they took me in for a minor surgical procedure to remove the eggs. My husband, on the day the doctors were performing the procedure, gave a sperm sample, which was then prepared to be combined with my eggs.
The laboratory at the hospital then took the two and stored them in a specifically designed unit to encourage fertilization. A few days later, the fertilized eggs were inserted into my uterus. Both procedures were almost painless, and the doctors were all calm and completely confident about the procedures. After the procedures, the doctors advised me to avoid any vigorous activities. About 10 days after the procedure, the doctors took a blood test, to confirm whether I was pregnant, and wonder of wonders, I was!
The revelation that my child, the child I’d been waiting almost two decades for, was growing inside me was indescribable. The idea that I was pregnant at 42 was something that I could barely believe, and to this day, I see it as a blessing. What followed was a closely monitored pregnancy, which my doctors treated as a high-risk pregnancy case, given that I had age and previous miscarriages against me, as well as the fact that I had used fertility treatments to conceive. However, my pregnancy went smoothly, and my delivery date kept coming closer.
At the start of the 34th week of my pregnancy, I went into premature labour and was rushed to the hospital. However, the doctors had prepped us about the possibility of this in advance, and the labour room and all the experts were already at hand when we reached. The doctors, seeing my premature delivery, immediately prepped for a Caesarean section, and rushed my baby girl to the neonatal care centre immediately after the delivery. After 2 weeks of almost frantic waiting, we were both discharged and allowed to go home.
We have been visiting Apollo Cradlefor regular check-ups for almost a year now, but the doctors are confident (please see if this statement can be changed to one with a positive note about it) that there are no real signs that either my daughter or I are in any real danger of problems. The fact that I had the confident maternity team from Apollo Cradle by my side, to offer their expertise and experience, as well as the love and support of my husband and family, is why I stand before you today, a proud mother at 43. I urge that you not stop trying, and that you have a strong and confident maternity expert by your side.
What can I do to make sure I have a healthy pregnancy over 40?
The best thing you can do if you are pregnant at any age is to concentrate on trying to be as healthy as possible by:
- not smoking
- eating a healthy, balanced diet
- losing weight before pregnancy if you are overweight or obese
- managing your weight gain if you are overweight or obese in pregnancy
- trying to avoid certain infections during pregnancy, including rubella
- avoiding certain foods in pregnancy
- not drinking alcohol or using illegal drugs in pregnancy
- staying active
- limiting your caffeine intake before and during pregnancy.
“I had my second child when I was 41. It was a lovely experience, and I didn’t have any issues that may affect older women. I don’t regret for one moment having a child in my 40s. I felt so much more confident by then.”
Helena, mum of two
Will my age affect my labour and birth?
You are likely to be offered medical interventions, such as an induction, to get your labour started. If you’re aged 40 or over, you may be offered an induction at 39 weeks. This is to reduce the risk of stillbirth, especially if you have other complications.
Are there any advantages to being an older mum?
It’s possible that you are eating more healthily and exercising more than when you were younger. Older women are also less likely to be smokers.
The confidence you may have gained from having more life experience may make it easier to enjoy pregnancy and having children. It’s also more likely that you are emotionally and financially stable and ready for children. Try not to worry too much about your age. Just concentrate on having a healthy pregnancy and bonding with your baby. If you have any worries or concerns, it might be helpful to talk to your GP or midwife.