40 now ! Is it too late ?
Questions such as what are you waiting for and when will you start are often asked by close friends and relatives once one reaches her 30s. The assumption persists that a woman in her 40s should not be having children, most commonly phrased as ‘have a baby before it’s too late.’
Getting pregnant at 40 ?
When Halle Berry first announced how surprised she was that she was pregnant at 41, the whole world seemed to ask the same question: Is it safe ? Having a baby at 40? Though a rare occurrence for natural conception to for a woman to conceive in her forties, the concern is usually the same: how will it affect the health of the mother and the baby, and what will be her ability to get the baby to get to term ?
It is common knowledge that every woman of born with a fixed number of eggs. Consequently this would mean that as she ovulates each month over a number of years, the number of eggs left available for conception decrease over time. And though women in their 40s still ovulate, menopause edges closer as they near the ages of 50-51.
So as it has been duly noted that the ability for a woman to conceive at that age is in itself a little challenging, and in the rare occasion that it does, there is a slightly higher chance of miscarriage than that of a woman in her 20s or 30s. However, we must admit that there is not as much data around the effects on age and natural conception as there in on age and Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART). The data available on age and natural conception is usually derived from the study of populations that are independent of contraception and ART interventions. What has been found though is that in a one year period of trying to conceive 44% of 40-year-old women will achieve a live baby naturally. The rates are higher for younger women whereby 66% of 35-year-old women will conceive naturally and 75% of women under 30 years will manage also.
So what really is the problem?
Researchers have found that there is no direct link between a healthy lifestyle and the quality of a woman’s eggs. Though one may look and feel healthy, their eggs may still not. With age, the quality of a woman’s eggs deteriorates, making it less likely for conception to occur, and in the event that it does, it is then more likely for miscarriages to occur or a higher probability of the children being born with Down syndrome.
And how does In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) come to the rescue?
Though IVF is not a cure, there is a much greater chance of a healthier and more successful pregnancy with IVF. The statistics may fall sharply when one nears 40, however the chances are still better than those of natural conception. The chances if miscarriage may still remain relatively high, but one is assured that if they manage to get past the first few weeks, then chances are they will have a healthier and happier child. And to top it all off, it is well known that older mothers have babies who are as healthy and as bright as those conceived by younger ones.
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