Getting Pregnant at an Older Age: What You Should Know

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Question:

Can I get pregnant at 52?

-Rochester

Answer:

Dear Rochester,

You ask a great question, and the answer is a resounding “maybe.” You see, each person has a slightly different fertility life cycle. Some women begin to see a decline in their fertility in their early 30s and finish ovulating in their late 40s, rendering them infertile by the age of 52. Other women are still ovulating in their 50s and can get pregnant.

We do know that the average age of mothers is rising, and the number of women over 40 having babies is also increasing. What I don’t know from your question is if you are wondering whether you need to avoid pregnancy by still using birth control, or if you’re asking me because you want to have a baby. Let’s consider both.

I don’t want to get pregnant. When can I safely stop using birth control?

The answer to the first question is pretty simple: If you are sexually active and your doctor has not yet told you that you have gone through menopause, you should use birth control. This means you’ve had 12 straight months without a period. (Remember that condoms not only protect against pregnancy but also sexually transmitted diseases, a number that is also rising in the 50-and-older population.)

I want to get pregnant. Is it even possible?

On the other hand, if you are wondering if you can get pregnant because you want to have a baby, that answer is also maybe. It is unusual but not impossible for a woman at 52 to spontaneously get pregnant, but it does happen. Most women over 45 who want to become pregnant are using some sort of fertility medication or fertility treatment to help them conceive. This may include the use of in vitro fertilization.

It’s also important to keep in mind that advanced maternal age (a term sometimes used to describe mothers over a certain age, sometimes as young as 35) may be considered a “complication” during pregnancy. Women who are pregnant and over 40 have a higher risk of some pregnancy complications like preeclampsia and preterm birth, and they have a higher rate of cesarean birth. The risk for these complications increases largely because you are more likely to have chronic illnesses — like thyroid conditions or hypertension — as you get older. Therefore, some practitioners may treat you as “high risk” as opposed to requiring special attention, a subtle but important difference.

As with anything, the majority of pregnancies in older mothers are still perfectly normal. Remember that “high risk” means something is more likely to happen, not that it absolutely will happen.

Best of luck in your decision!

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You should know:

The answer above provides general health information that is not intended to replace medical advice or treatment recommendations from a qualified healthcare professional.

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