By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist) and Rebeca Reus BSc, MSc (embryologist).
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 a 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 use "The Calculator" 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.

Last but not least, the report will inform you about promotions and special prices from the fertility clinics selected, if any.

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.

Pregnant at 50 symptoms

On average, menopause occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. For this reason, it is estimated that women are going through perimenopause when they are 50. Still, getting pregnant during perimenopause is possible, though the chances are minimal.

In case you get pregnant naturally in your 50s, the symptoms you are likely to experience may be similar to the common pregnancy symptoms all women experience.

But, oftentimes, 50-year-old women tend to confuse menopausal symptoms such as menstrual alterations, hot flashes, mood swings, and weight gain with pregnancy symptoms. Indeed, perimenopausal symptoms can mimic pregnancy symptoms and be confused for each other.

To sum up, the following is a list of symptoms seen in both pregnancy and menopause:

  • Changes in menstrual cycle
  • Fatigue and sleep disorders
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain
  • Peeing problems
  • Alterations in sex drive
  • Bloating & cramping
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats

If you are experiencing some or all of the symptoms listed above along with vaginal dryness, dry skin, cholesterol changes, decreased fertility, joint pain, etc., it’s likely that you are going through perimenopause, the stage prior to menopause.

You may also enjoy some further information reading this: What Is Menopause? – Age, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment.

FAQs from users

How old is the oldest woman to conceive a child naturally?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

A British woman was able to give birth at the age of 59, thereby becoming the world’s oldest natural mother.

Can you get pregnant while going through the menopause?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Yes, it is possible to get pregnant during perimenopause, the natural cycle of womanhood leading up to menopause. As explained above, it is possible for a woman to still get pregnant when she’s at this stage, as ovulation still occurs.

What are the success rates with donor eggs in women over 40?

By Rebeca Reus BSc, MSc (embryologist).

With donor eggs, the chances of getting pregnant stand at 50-70% per cycle for women in their forties. It should be kept in mind that uterine receptivity might decline with advanced age. The reasons behind it might include biochemical and/or molecular aberrations of the endometrial lining, incidence of pathological conditions in the uterus (e.g. polyps, myomas…), hypertension, etc.

What age is too late to have a baby?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Actually, it depends on each woman. However, it is a fact that the decline in fertility accelerates at 35. However, we can say that it is too late for a woman to have a baby naturally when she starts having symptoms of menopause.

Can you get pregnant with donor eggs after menopause?

By Rebeca Reus BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Yes, it is possible to have a baby after menopause, a phenomenon known as postmenopausal pregnancy. Menopause is defined as the cessation of menstruation, which means the loss of ovarian activity. However, this does not affect the uterus, which is still functional, and able to carry a pregnancy. This is perfectly possible with either donor eggs from a young girl, the woman’s own previously frozen eggs, or the couple’s frozen embryos, if any.

What are the miscarriage rates with donor eggs?

By Rebeca Reus BSc, MSc (embryologist).

While in women younger than 45, the implantation rate is 45% on average, it drops to 35% in women from the 45-50 age group. Subsequently, the miscarriage rates increase with age in spite of using donor eggs: while they are less than 10% when the woman is 45 or less, they stand at 16% on average for women over 45. As explained above, a decline in endometrial receptivity is usually the reason behind this.

Is it safe to have a baby at 40?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Yes, although the odds of genetic problems rise as a woman gets older, especially from age 35. Approximately, the risk of conceiving a child with Down syndrome is one in 100 when you reach the age of 40.

What age is best to get pregnant?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

It is considered that the safest age for childbearing is the one ranging from 20 to 35. From age 35, the risk of having genetic issues are greater if compared to women 10 years younger.

Suggested for you

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?

Authors and contributors

 Zaira Salvador
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (UPV). Embryologist specializing in Assisted Procreation, with a Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia (UV) and the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). More information
License: 3185-CV
 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