What is the likelihood of pregnancy at 40 and what should you bear in mind?

Published: 9 January 2023|Last updated: 9 January 2023|About Assisted Reproduction.|

As more and more women decide to become mothers for the first time, or even again, after the age of 40, a growing number of people are asking themselves what the chances of pregnancy at 40 are. Many succeed without difficulty and most pregnancies turn out well. However, the biological clock is working against the social clock. Female biology moves in a different direction and at a different pace.

When a woman of 40 or older decides to become a mother, she is faced with the constraints that her own body presents her with: an ageing of her reproductive organs, which translates into a possible diminished ovarian reserve. Becoming a mother after the age of 40 is possible and we will tell you in detail how you can achieve it.

Is it possible to get pregnant naturally at the age of 40?

While fertility naturally declines as we age, beginning around the ages of between 30 and 35, it is possible to get pregnant without intervention after the age of 40. However, a woman’s chances of pregnancy in her 40s and beyond are lower when trying to conceive naturally than earlier in her reproductive years. Check out our Timefreeze fertility calculator.

There are ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant at 40, so rest assured, age does not make it impossible to get pregnant at 40, but it will probably take longer. That’s why the recommendation to seek professional help after the age of 40 is usually after six months of unprotected sex.

What is the likelihood of pregnancy at the age of 40 in assisted reproduction treatment?

Medicine is relatively new to this discipline, having only been in development for 40 years; in fact, 2018 marked the 40th anniversary of the first birth of a baby girl born using assisted reproductive techniques. In answer to your question, each type of assisted reproductive treatment provides different probabilities.

Except in the case of egg donation, the age of the patient is a determining factor, since, after the age of 35, the reproductive potential of a woman’s eggs decreases rapidly. The most studied and used options at present are artificial insemination (AI) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF). Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

Artificial insemination

Artificial insemination is the least complex treatment usually recommended for women under 40 years of age, in which previously selected sperm are inserted directly into your uterus at the most appropriate time in order to increase the chances of pregnancy. This treatment offers optimal pregnancy rates right up to the third or fourth attempt.

Artificial insemination can be performed with donor sperm or conjugal sperm (sperm from the partner). In the case of AI using donor sperm, it is carried out with a sample from an anonymous donor who has been selected and subjected to a comprehensive study. In women under 40, the likelihood of pregnancy ranges from 42% to 59% by the third attempt, while in women over 40 the pregnancy rate is 37% following a third attempt.

In the case of AI using conjugal sperm, the selected sperm sample belongs to the partner and the results indicate that in women under 40 years of age, the cumulative probability of pregnancy is between 41% to 51% at the third attempt, while in women over 40 the cumulative pregnancy rate is 32% after the third attempt.

In-vitro fertilisation

Most In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatments result in a substantial improvement in the fertilisation rate, especially when using the ICSI technique. In this procedure, IVF can be carried out using either donor eggs or the patient’s own eggs, and in both cases the probability of getting pregnant increases with the number of transfers.

Embryo transfer is the last step in an In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatment. Once the eggs (from a donor or your own) have been inseminated with the sperm in the laboratory and the embryos have been generated, it is time to insert them into the mother-to-be’s uterus.

When donor eggs are used, the probability of pregnancy is maximised if all the available transfers in three consecutive cycles are carried out, resulting in a cumulative pregnancy success rate of 98%.

In this treatment, which uses donor eggs, the age of the woman who wishes to become a mother is not a determining factor, as we have quality eggs that have successfully completed multiple medical and genetic tests.

However, in cases when a woman uses her own eggs obtained between the ages of 38 and 44, the pregnancy rate following all attempts in the same cycle varies between 12% and 53%, with the rate decreasing as the woman’s age increases.

Are there risks in getting pregnant at 40?

Older pregnant women tend to have more health problems than younger women. In this regard, the risks of getting pregnant at 40 are mainly related to two common complications: diabetes and hypertension. In this case, they are called “gestational diabetes” and “pregnancy-induced hypertension”.

Both risks increase with the mother’s age. In some cases, the risk goes up if pregnant women are overweight, obese or have other health problems that lead to pregnancy-induced hypertension (pre-eclampsia), a condition characterised by the sudden onset of high blood pressure and signs of organ damage during pregnancy. If left untreated by doctors, these complications can lead to serious problems for the mother or baby.

For the baby, if you get pregnant in your 40s, you will increase the risk of:

  • Higher birth weight of your baby (macrosomia), which becomes more likely as the mother’s age increases.
  • Placenta praevia. This happens when your baby’s placenta partially or completely covers your cervix, which is the exit area of your uterus. With this condition, you may bleed more during pregnancy and delivery.
  • Miscarriage or stillbirth. You are more likely to have a miscarriage if you are older. By age 40, 27% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, compared to 16% for those aged 30 or younger.
  • Caesarean section. If you are 40 or older, you are more likely to have a caesarean birth than a vaginal birth.
  • Down syndrome. The risk of having a child with Down syndrome increases with age. At age 20, 1 in 1,480 children will be born with the condition. But by age 40, this risk increases to 1 in 85. By age 45, your child’s risk is 1 in 35.

However, with good health monitoring from the outset, we can diagnose these complications early. By closely monitoring your blood glucose (blood glucose level) and blood pressure, you can prevent the onset of these complications by adopting good lifestyle habits.

In conclusion, due to advances in reproductive technology, delaying childbearing is becoming increasingly popular. Women today have more freedom and resources than ever before to become mothers when they feel ready and prepared.

With the right support network, financial stability and access to medical care, women over 40 can experience the joys of motherhood safely and confidently. While having children later in life may carry some associated risks, the benefits can be immeasurable.

If you are thinking of starting assisted reproduction treatment, we would like to encourage you to contact us with no obligation and we will be happy to clarify everything you need to know so that you can be confident before embarking on this journey.

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