Getting Pregnant Over 40

Trying to conceive over 40, let alone any age, can bring up a lot of big feelings; excitement, fear, confusion, surprise, frustration, anticipation – you name it. Today we are talking about things to consider and how to get started when trying to conceive over 40.

Getting pregnant over 40 is not unheard of, but can be challenging for couples. This is due to a natural age-related fertility decline in both men and women. Research indicates that in women, there is a slight decline in fertility in the late 20s to early 30s, and a greater decline in the mid-to-late 30s. The average age when a woman’s childbearing years comes to an end is 45. 

Women over 35 also have a higher risk of miscarriage, chromosomal abnormalities, and pregnancy complications. In men, research suggests that between the age of 30 and 50, there is a notable decrease in semen volume, sperm motility, and sperm morphology. 

Keep in mind that these are statistics, trends, and averages. They are important to consider but by no means indicative of each personal outcome. 


Things To Consider 

If a couple is trying to conceive over 35, the general rule of thumb is to try naturally for 6 months before seeing a fertility specialist. 

That said, there are some situations in which it is wise to see a fertility specialist earlier, including a preexisting medical condition in you or your partner, or a history of irregular menstrual cycles. 


Preexisting Medical Conditions

Preexisting medical conditions, including a thyroid disorder, autoimmune disorder, diabetes, endometriosis, PCOS, among many others, may affect fertility. When trying to conceive over 40, we recommend not waiting 6 months to consult a fertility specialist for those with a preexisting medical condition. Information is valuable and will help you and your partner take the best course of action.


A History of Irregular Cycles 

An irregular cycle is defined as: A period that is less than 21 days or more than 35 days apart, a period that lasts longer than seven days, a menstrual flow that is abnormally light or heavy, and bleeding or spotting between periods or during sexual intercourse. Irregular cycles are caused by a variety of factors including stress, weight loss or weight gain, hormonal changes, or a preexisting medical condition. 

A woman’s menstrual cycle and her fertility are intricately connected. Patterns of a menstrual cycle reflect hormone levels in the body that coordinate fertility. Don’t panic if a period is early or late every once in a while, but if your cycles are frequently irregular, consider seeing a fertility specialist early on in the process of trying to conceive.


How to Get Started

A great place to start when trying to convince is to track your menstrual cycles and ovulation. Tracking ovulation allows a couple to determine what days of the month they are most fertile, and time sexual intercourse accordingly. After ovulation, the egg is only viable for 24 hours, while sperm can survive in a woman’s body for up to five days. It’s ideal to have sex every other day starting before ovulation, and throughout your most fertile window of time. This allows sperm to regenerate and fully develop. 

Monitoring basal body temperature, cervical mucus, and using ovulation tests are all helpful in tracking ovulation. 


Basal Body Temperature 

Immediately following ovulation, there is an increase in a woman’s basal body temperature of approximately 0.5°- 1.0° F. This is attributed to a surge in a hormone called progesterone. 

Tracking ovulation using this method requires waking up at approximately the same time every morning, immediately taking your temperature, and charting your temperature for each day of the month on paper or an app. Temperature charting will allow you to identify phases of your cycle, including what day of your cycle you typically ovulate and your fertile window. Not all women ovulate on exactly day 14!

If temperature charting sounds overwhelmingly detailed, there are products that will do it for you. Oftentimes, these products are more accurate than doing it yourself (and you can sleep in on the weekends!)


Cervical Mucus 

Monitoring cervical mucus is another way to predict ovulation and is often used in conjunction with temperature charting. Around ovulation, the chemical makeup and consistency of cervical mucus will change. This creates an environment that allows sperm to survive longer inside the woman’s body, in order to fertilize the egg. Cervical mucus becomes transparent, like raw egg white, stretchy/elastic, and feels wet, slippery, and smooth. 


Ovulation Tests 

Another helpful tool when trying to conceive is ovulation tests. Leading up to ovulation, there is a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) which can be detected in urine. Ovulation tests cannot confirm that ovulation took place, but can help determine what days of the month you are most likely to conceive. 

Looking for more information about fertility and conceiving? Check out these resources


Other Considerations

While it might not be easy to get pregnant in your 40’s, it is most likely not impossible. With this being said, it may also be beneficial to begin considering other paths to parenthood. Egg donor, embryo donor, surrogacy, and adoption are other ways you could consider growing your family. 

Anna Hage is Fruitful’s 2021 intern from Bethel University. She developed a passion for supporting women who are overcoming a physical or emotional burden in her experience at a functional medicine clinic. An interest in infertility has led her to Fruitful, and to pursue a career as a women’s health nurse practitioner.

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