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By Jean M. Twenge, author of The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant.
If you’re over 40 and worried you’ll never get pregnant, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, most of what you read online and in magazines about fertility after 40 isn’t true, or isn’t relevant.
Here’s 10 things you should be aware of regarding natural conception after 40, based on the best data available:
1. Most data on fertility after 40 quoted online (and even in patient guides by doctors) comes from either IVF fertility treatment or from birth records from the 1900 or earlier.
2. You might have read that the chance of pregnancy per cycle is only 5% at age 40. I was never able to locate a source for this statistic, and none of the fertility experts I spoke with knew where it came from. That leads me to believe it’s not true.
3. To my knowledge, there are only two studies of natural fertility after 40 based on women born in the 20th century.
4. Both studies look at women who have already had at least one child. Fertility rates in this group tend to be higher than among those who have never had a child. That may be because among women with even somewhat inconsistent birth control use, some accidental pregnancies would have occurred. If they didn’t, there might be an underlying fertility issue unconnected to age (like blocked tubes or sperm issues). Some speculate that having children could also make women more fertile, but that has not been scientifically proven.
5. A 1985 study (http://www NULL.bmj NULL.com/content/290/6483/1697) found that among women 40 or older who had at least one child, 36% had a baby within 12 months of stopping birth control. That means 1 out of 3 got pregnant with a viable baby within about 3 months. 59% got pregnant within 9 months, 68% within 18 months, and 78% within two years.
6. A 2013 study found that among white women ages 40-43 who had at least one child, 60% got pregnant within 6 months.
7. Recent studies of embryos in IVF cycles find that only 16% of embryos are normal among women ages 40 to 42, and only 8% among those 43 or older. It is not clear if these statistics apply to women trying to conceive naturally.
8. Even if they do, they may not be as discouraging as they sound. 16% is 1 out of 6. It sounds like that means it would take 6 months on average to get pregnant, but it doesn’t. If you assume that getting a normal embryo is random, the statistics are the same as rolling a 6 on 6-sided dice. By 4 rolls, more than 50% of people will have rolled a 6.
9. That means getting pregnant should take about 4 months for those age 40 to 42, IF (big IF) everything else lines up right (for example, having sex at the right time, a partner with a normal sperm count, open tubes, and so on).
(http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Impatient-Womans-Guide-Getting-Pregnant/dp/1451620705)10. Especially for women over 40, timing sex is crucial for getting pregnant. For more on that (and lots else!) check out my book The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Impatient-Womans-Guide-Getting-Pregnant/dp/1451620705).
Let’s go roll some 6’s!
Jean M. Twenge is a professor of psychology at San Diego State University. She is the author of over 100 scientific publications and the books Generation Me, The Narcissism Epidemic (with W. Keith Campbell), and The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant. Her three daughters were born when she was 35, 38, and 40.
Links for this blog:
http://www.impatientwoman.com (http://www NULL.impatientwoman NULL.com/)
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/how-long-can-you-wait-to-have-a-baby/309374/ (http://www NULL.theatlantic NULL.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/how-long-can-you-wait-to-have-a-baby/309374/)
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