This is a question I never used to consider. After a lifetime of infertility, when I decided to try one last time to conceive a child at age 44, I knew that I was young physically and emotionally. I dove forward passionately with the process and now have my precious baby girl who is almost one year old. Today, at age 46, with a year of baby experience including sleep deprivation, colic, teething, giggles, smiles and singing; I am wondering if I am too old to try again.
The question of age and pregnancy certainly stirs up lots of opinions. I was recently featured on CNN and in the Washington Times with a number of other over-40-moms and much of the on line commentary from readers was not positive. My friend, Angel LaLiberte, writes about the challenges of motherhood over 40 on her blog, Flower Power Moms. While the daily challenges certainly exist and are well documented, women also need to look at the facts to make the best decision for their situation.
Fact 1: Pregnancy over 40 is higher risk. Women over 40 suffer higher miscarriage rates and are more frequently diagnosed with preeclampsia than women in their 20's and 30's
Fact 2: Genetic abnormalities increase with mothers over 40. Risks of having a baby with Down Syndrome, spina bifida and trisomy 18 increase each year over age 40.
Fact 3: Fertility rates decrease with age. Statistcs show that fertility declines at age 35 and falls off steeply over age 40 and beyond. A woman over the age of 44 has only a 3% statistical chance of conceiving a baby.
Fact 4: Everyone slows down with age (unless they are on some type of performance enhancing drug). None of us run as fast as we did at age 30 or bounce back from injury as quickly as we did when we were younger. Babies and small children require lots of energy which is in declining quantities as we age.
Fact 5: With age comes wisdom and patience (usually). Generally speaking, women over 40 report that they are better parents because they have more patience and experience than they did in their 30's.
Fact 6: More women are having babies over age 40 than ever before. According to the CDC, births to women over 40 is the only category increasing in America, even eclipsing teen birth rates.
Other considerations include:
- Siblings: Should older moms provide siblings so their children will have a family when their parents are gone?
- Finances: Raising children is expensive and will overlap with retirement for many over 40 parents
- Social stigma: Parents will be in their 60's when their kids are in high school.
- Joy: Children bring a joy and perspective in life that is unmatched.
There are no easy answers and no single roadmap that applies to everyone. I know 46 and 47 year old women who are aggressively working to conceive a child. Kelly Preston delivered a healthy baby at age 47. I have not decided if I should try to have a second child, but the decision will be the most carefully considered one of my life.