Weighing the Risks of Pregnancy After 40

The number of women having children later in life is increasing every year. In fact, the number of women getting pregnant in their 40s has increased by 3% every year since 1984.

Jackie Vannuyen, MD, an OB-GYN with ProMedica Physicians Obstetrics | Gynecology, shares the risks and benefits of pregnancy after 40.

Risks of Pregnancy After 40

Pregnancy after 40 comes with increased risks and challenges. Women who get pregnant after 40 have a higher risk of experiencing the following pregnancy-related conditions/outcomes*:

  • Miscarriage: Women over the age of 40 have a 40% chance of miscarriage compared to an 18-20% risk for women in their 20s and 30s.
  • Chromosomal abnormality: Babies birthed by women over 40 have a 1 in 66 chance of having a chromosomal abnormality compared to a 1 in 400 chance when birthed by a woman in her 20s or 30s.
  • Gestational diabetes: Women over 40 have a 14.5% chance of developing gestational diabetes compared to a 6.9% chance for women under 40.
  • Hypertension: Women over 40 have a 3.1% chance of developing gestational hypertension compared to a 1.1% chance for women under 40.
  • Medically necessary Cesarean section (C-section):6% of pregnancies for women over 40 have a scheduled C-section and 50.4% result in an emergency or unplanned C-section.
  • Stillbirth: Women over 40 have an increased risk for stillbirth (2.1% compared to 0.5% for women 25 – 30 years old).
  • Abnormal fetal growth and placental issues.

*Statistics are based on this 2020 study conducted in France.

Benefits of Pregnancy After 40

While there are risks to pregnancy after 40, there are some benefits for women to consider if they are exploring the idea.

“Women in their 40s tend to have more life wisdom, better balance between self and others, more financial freedom and a more stable relationship with their partner,” Dr. Vannuyen shares. “Additionally, risk of postpartum depression is lower in women over the age of 40.”

Learn more about pregnancy after 40 from Dr. Vannuyen in this podcast episode of Happily Ever After 40.