Can a Woman Get Pregnant at Age 50? – Chances & Risks

By (expert in clinical diagnostics), BSc, MSc (embryologist) and BSc, MSc (psychologist).
Last Update: 06/11/2018

Late motherhood is a phenomenon that is becoming more and more common in today's society. In comparison with previous years, when women usually had their first child at 30 years old, today most common are close to age 50 when they decide to have the first baby.

But, unfortunately, the biological clock is ticking for all women at this point, and age is a decisive factor for women to become mothers. From the age of 35-37, the egg count diminishes dramatically and so the chances of getting pregnant.

Women who consider pregnancy over 40 or even 50 are likely to need to a fertility treatment to have a baby, and using donor eggs may be required in almost all cases.

Best age to have a baby biologically

To get pregnant naturally, both the man and the woman must be fertile. As regards the female partner, she must meet two fundamental criteria un order to give birth to a healthy child:

  • Good ovarian reserve (egg count) and egg quality
  • Uterus (womb) able to give rise and maintain a pregnancy until childbirth

Unfortunately, the ovaries get old as women age. And what's more, this decrease in fertility occurs more rapidly from age 37.

Delaying motherhood increases the risk for the eggs remaining in your egg supply to have chromosomal abnormalities, which increases the miscarriage and implantation failure rates, as well as the chances for the child to be born with alterations such as the Down syndrome.

Women over 40 should keep in mind that the quality of their eggs is inevitably lower than when they were younger, let alone at ages 45 and 50, when the chances of falling pregnant naturally are almost non-existent.

Read more: How Many Eggs Does a Woman Have? – Your Egg Count by Age.

Options to have a baby over 50

In spite of all the negatives of being a mother at an advanced age commented above, it is possible for a woman aged 50 to have a kid with the help of fertility treatments, as long as she is healthy to get pregnant and carry a child until birth.

Continue reading to learn more about the potential treatments and techniques that may allow you to become a mother at 50:

Fertility preservation

As explained above, egg quality can be seriously compromised when a woman reaches the age of 50.

For this reason, women who are planning to become mothers at an advanced maternal age should consider retaining their fertility, that is, cryopreserving their oocytes when they are younger.

Egg vitrification is the technique for the cryopreservation of eggs today. The survival rates are now higher than ever thanks to the latest improvements made in fertility preservation programs offered by fertility clinics nowadays.

If you decide to freeze your eggs when you are 30 or younger, their quality will be as high as it was at that point when you decide to thaw them later in life, thereby increasing your chances of getting pregnant at 50.

Fertility preservation is the most adequate option for women who wish to have biological children at 50 years old.

IVF with PGD

Women who reach an advanced age and decide to become mothers at that point without having cryopreserved their eggs can give IVF with ovarian stimulation a try. In this case, you will receive fertility drugs to induce ovulation and produce multiple eggs.

But, unfortunately, when a woman is 40 years old or older, the response of the ovaries to medications is typically poor, and subsequently the number of eggs retrieved is low, and so their quality. Read: Poor Responders in IVF Cycles – Management & Best Protocols.

The good news is that some women still have their AMH (anti-Müllerian hormone) levels within the boundaries of what's considered adequate for IVF. These women give IVF a try in order to have a biological before moving on to donor eggs as their last resort.

Anti-Müllerian hormone is a parameter used to evaluate the ovarian reserve in women. Check this out to read more: What Can Ovarian Reserve & AMH Tests Tell Us? – Results Explained.

In these cases, it is advisable to do IVF with Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) to examine the embryos genetically before they are transferred back to the uterus. The goal is not to transfer those carrying genetic abnormalities or diseases.

Due to age, chances are that most embryos are qualified as not viable. This is precisely the reason with PGD is so important in these cases—it prevents pregnancies that may result in miscarriage or an unhealthy baby.

Egg donation

Clearly, egg donation is the most appropriate treatment option for women who decide to get pregnant at 50.

Egg donors are typically young, healthy girls who decide to donate their egg cells altruistically, in exchange for financial compensation for the potential inconveniences caused.

This is the reason why the quality of donor eggs is optimal, which translates into high success rates for IVF with donor eggs.

It should be noted that, before trying to get pregnant via donor eggs, your doctor should evaluate your overall state in order to determine if you will be able to carry a child until birth or, conversely, it may compromise your health.

IVF with donor eggs is probably the most confusing of all fertility treatments, and oftentimes, a misleading one. Transparency is one of our strict selection criteria when it comes to recommending fertility clinics to our readers. You can create your Fertility Report now to filter clinics based on our selection criteria and get an individual report based on your preferences with answers to your queries and most importantly, to prevent potential frauds.

Risks of having a baby at 50

As seen throughout this post, getting pregnant in your 50s is not an easy task due to the number of natural barriers that you may encounter in your journey.

Aside from this, one should add all the risks for the mother and the baby that getting pregnant at an advance age implies, including:

For all these reasons, it is crucial that both the woman and her partner, if any, consider all the influential factors and risks involved in getting pregnant at the age of 50.

FAQs from users

Is IVF or Ovodonation better for women in their 50s?

By Dra. Rut Gómez de Segura MD (gynecologist).

Ovodonation. After the age of 45, pregnancies with own oocytes are anecdotal. Even in natural populations that do not use contraceptive methods and have very large families, women stop having offspring after the age of 44. In assisted reproduction treatments few oocytes are obtained and of low quality resulting in embryos with little or no implantation potential.

Therefore, if a patient wishes to become a mother at the age of 50, she should opt for a treatment with donated oocytes or embryos.

What requirements must a woman in her late 50s meet to be accepted for fertility treatment and become pregnant?

By Óscar Oviedo Moreno MD (gynecologist).

There is a consensus among the Spanish Fertility Society and experts in Reproductive Medicine in our country to set an age limit of 50 years to start an Assisted Reproduction treatment.

In order to be able to treat a woman of this age, she must be in optimal health, without any pathology that could complicate gestation.

To what extent is the application of PGD important in women who decide to become mothers at an advanced age?

By Julio Martín (expert in clinical diagnostics).

From a reproductive point of view, if we take as advanced maternal age women seeking pregnancy from 40-41 years of age, the clinical data are clear and reveal that the eggs of these women present an increased risk of chromosomal alterations, especially trisomies such as chromosome 21 or Down's Syndrome.

Clinical data from the main medical groups that apply PGD show that its use for this group of women favors the gestation rate and decreases the miscarriage rate.

Is it possible to achieve a pregnancy with in vitro fertilization at age 50?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Yes, some women using their own eggs have been able to become pregnant through IVF. For this, it is important that the woman still has regular menstrual cycles and that her ovarian reserve is not seriously affected.

Is it possible to become a mother at 50 naturally?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

There are surprising cases where women over the age of 50 have become pregnant naturally. Many of the known cases are of premenopausal women who have had unprotected sex thinking that the possibility of pregnancy was already ruled out. However, it must be taken into account that women who are in the perimenopausal stage still have sporadic ovulations and, therefore, the possibility of pregnancy exists, even if it is remote.

Is it possible to be a new mother at 50?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Yes, in recent years there have been some shocking news of celebrities who have become mothers for the first time at the age of 50. A few years ago it was the actress Laura Linney who gave this surprise and, recently, it has been the singer Janet Jackson who has given birth to her firstborn. Although they have not confirmed it, it is possible that these births have had the help of assisted reproduction.

Suggested readings

Fertility preservation is the best option for those women who decide to delay motherhood. I recommend that you continue reading about this option here: Fertility Preservation – Cost & Options for Retaining Your Fertility.

We have made reference to Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) as an additional technique for obtaining embryos with implantation potential. To get more info about this treatment option, click here: What Is PGD or Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis?

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References

Authors and contributors

 Julio  Martín
Julio Martín
Expert in clinical diagnostics
Expert in clinical and laboratory generic development. Development of new tests and analysis of single gene genetic disorders. Laboratory manager at IVIOMICS and currently working in the IGENOMIX laboratory. More information about Julio Martín
 Rebeca Reus
Rebeca Reus
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Degree in Human Biology (Biochemistry) from the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF). Official Master's Degree in Clinical Analysis Laboratory from the UPF and Master’s Degree about the Theoretical Basis and Laboratory Procedures in Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV). More information about Rebeca Reus
Adapted into english by:
 Cristina  Algarra Goosman
Cristina Algarra Goosman
BSc, MSc
Psychologist
Graduated in Psychology by the University of Valencia (UV) and specialized in Clinical Psychology by the European University Center and specific training in Infertility: Legal, Medical and Psychosocial Aspects by University of Valencia (UV) and ADEIT.
More information about Cristina Algarra Goosman
Member number: CV16874

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