You're ready to have a baby! But if you're over 35, you might worry that you’ve missed your chance at motherhood. Rest assured, you can become a mom in your late 30s or even into your 40s. But you may not get pregnant as quickly or easily as a 20-something would.
Odds for Older Moms
There’s no doubt it's easier to get pregnant when you're younger. You're born with a set number of eggs in your ovaries, and you lose at least one with each menstrual cycle. Their quality also declines as you age.
A woman in her 20s has a 20% chance of getting pregnant during a single menstrual cycle, says Alan Copperman, MD, director of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. By her mid-30s, her chances are about 15% per cycle. At age 40, they drop to 10%, and by age 45, she has about a 3% chance of getting pregnant during each cycle.
“As you get older, you have to work a little harder, and it may take longer,” says M. Kelly Shanahan, MD, author of Your Over-35 Week-by-Week Pregnancy Guide. “When you're 25 and trying to get pregnant, it might take 2 to 3 months. For someone who's 35, it might take 6 to 9 months. By 45, it will probably take a trip to the reproductive endocrinologist, the fertility specialist.”
Get Your Timing Right
You may need science to help you get pregnant as you get older. An ovulation predictor kit or a fertility kit that tests for the hormone FSH can help you figure out when your ovaries will release an egg. That’s the process called ovulation. You can buy these kits at most drugstores.
Doctors say your best shot at making a baby is to have sex a few days before ovulation so that sperm will be in the right place when the egg arrives.
If you try for 6 months and don't get pregnant, see a reproductive endocrinologist.
“Don't waste time,” Shanahan says. “If you wait a year, it's another year's worth of eggs that are no longer available.”
When you meet with a fertility specialist, she’ll check your eggs and fallopian tubes, along with the father’s sperm, to look for any problems. Then, she’ll recommend a treatment based on your unique needs. These might include treatment for other health problems, like uterine fibroids or blocked fallopian tubes. Or she could tell you to lose or gain weight, or prescribe medicines that prompt ovulation.
In-vitro fertilization (IVF), when doctors combine the sperm and egg in a lab, isn’t always the first answer. Many people who’ve had trouble getting pregnant can be successful without it.