For most women, turning 50 means inching closer to retirement, perhaps traveling the world, or picking up a forgotten hobby. But for Deborah (Deb) Keaton, it meant all of those things and a bouncing bundle of joy.
At age 50, Keaton welcomed her first child -- a baby girl named Mathilda.
After marrying in her mid-40s and trying to get pregnant for a few years, Keaton and her husband decided to try reproductive assistance. It worked after a few tries and now her daughter is almost 11.
“I called friends and family and they were like ‘Wow … OK, here we go.’ I enjoyed my pregnancy. I was powerful, excited and my brain was sharp. My hair and skin looked great. It was wonderful and I absolutely loved the experience.”
If you think stories like Keaton’s are rare, you’re right. For healthy couples in their 20s and early 30s, around 1 in 4 women will get pregnant. By age 40, that number drops to 1 in 10. Men’s fertility also declines with age.
While Keaton had help with her pregnancy, it’s possible to get pregnant naturally in your late 40s or 50s when you’re going through perimenopause. But it’ doesn’t happen often. Keep in mind that celebrities posting baby bumps on social media don’t always share the full story of their path to motherhood.
“A baby naturally at 50 should be a happy surprise and not the expectation,” says Vintonne Naiden, MD, an integrative OB/GYN in metro Atlanta.
And getting pregnant at 50, or even in your late 40s, is no walk in the park. It can be hard on your body, your mind, and bank account. “Women who are pregnant at this age face many challenges,” Naiden says. “The risk of miscarriage or a baby with Down’s syndrome or other issues is much higher. Pregnancy can also be a lot tougher past age 45.”
You’ll be subjected to more tests if you get pregnant when you’re older. Your doctor will talk to you about the risks, which include having a baby with low birth weight, issues with the placenta, high blood pressure, miscarriage, or stillbirth. Half of all pregnancies in women over 45 end in miscarriage.
Prep Your Body for the Baby
If you’re pregnant at an older age, or hoping to be, know that while you can’t turn back your biological clock, you can do your part to get your body in better condition. Staying healthy is key. Take these tried- and- true steps:
- Quit smoking
- Move your body regularly
- Eat healthy food
- Limit caffeine and alcohol
- Take a prenatal vitamin
- Get some shut-eye; a lack of sleep can impact fertility.
Know Your Options
If you’re trying to conceive but haven’t gotten pregnant naturally after 6 months, talk to your doctor. They can suggest ways to improve your chances, like losing extra weight or addressing hormone imbalances.
If you haven’t gotten pregnant naturally after a year, your doctor may suggest in vitro fertilization, or IVF. In this process, they’ll gather eggs from your body, fertilize them with sperm in a lab, and transfer the embryo back to your body.
The doctor may recommend you use donor eggs or your own eggs if you had them frozen when you were younger. Keep in mind that as you age, your own eggs may not be as viable. And using IVF can be expensive. A cycle using your own eggs could range from $12,000-$15,000 per cycle or $25,000-$30,000 if you’re using eggs from a younger donor.
Get Your Mind Right
Doing all of the right things to have a baby can be stressful. The list of dos and don’ts can be overwhelming. And stress has been linked to delayed or missed periods, which can make tracking your ovulation and getting pregnant difficult.
Find a support group online to help you get through some of the low moments. Seek help from a counselor. Also, be prepared for some naysayers. Well-meaning friends and family may have strong opinions on why waiting later in life is not a good look. Have a game plan on how you’ll respond to such comments can help.
Just keep your eyes on the prize. After all was said and done -- the extra cost, extra tests, and even doubts from some family and friends, Keaton says it was the best decision of her life. “I have no regrets. My mother and I were close and now my daughter and I are close. We adore each other.”