By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist), Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist), Rebeca Reus BSc, MSc (embryologist) and Sara Salgado BSc, MSc (embryologist).
Last Update: 06/19/2018

Late motherhood is becoming increasingly popular in our society nowadays. Today, women prefer to focus on their professional career first, and they don’t decide to have children until they achieve financial stability.

The main drawback of delaying motherhood until age 40 is that fertility diminishes with age. Unfortunately, the age group of 20 to 30 is the ideal have the greatest chance of pregnancy. But this is not in line with the personal circumstances of each woman to start a family.

The good news for these women is that they can have children in their 40s thanks to the wide range of reproductive technologies available today.

The different sections of this article have been assembled into the following table of contents.

Best age to have a baby

In females, fertility starts with the first menstrual period. Approximately after one year with regular periods, approximately at age 16, women are biologically ready to get pregnant.

This fertility and subsequent great chance of pregnancy remains consistently high until age 27, when fertility is mildly affected. But it is not until the woman is 35 years old when her egg count will experience a dramatical decrease.

In spite of that, and especially nowadays, women are unlikely ready to become mothers when the biological clock indicates they should. While expanding your professional carrier, plus achieving financial and emotional stability, as well as finding a parter who wants to have children as well, it is likely that you are in your 30s or early 40s when you finally have the ideal situation to have a baby.

This change in today’s society has lead to an increasingly common trend of delaying motherhood in most women, who decide to have their first child at 40.

In many cases, these late pregnancies are achieved thanks to the use of a fertility treatment, given that the chances of getting pregnant naturally in your 40s are as low as 5 percent approximately. After age 45, getting pregnant with your own eggs is almost impossible.

Your reproductive options

During your 40s, it is only normal that your ovarian reserve is lower than in previous years. In other words, the amount of eggs remaining in your ovaries is decreasing and, what’s more, egg quality is poorer due to aging ovaries.

To all this must be added the fact that poor egg quality translates into a greater number of genetic alterations and aneuploidies due to advanced maternal age, which increases the risk of miscarriage or, what is worse, the birth of an ill child.

In order to avoid this and have a healthy child in case you are in your 40s, the most advisable is to turn to one of the following fertility treatments:

Fertility preservation

Thanks to a technique called egg vitrification or egg cryopreservation, you can freeze your eggs and store them until you decide to have children. The main advantage is that egg quality remains almost the same.

After undergoing controlled ovarian stimulation, it is possible for women to produce multiple eggs in order to freeze them for later use. Then, they are stored indefinitely without compromising their quality.

Additionally, the survival rate of post-thaw frozen eggs is above 90%.

Experts recommend that all women who wish to delay motherhood cryopreserve their eggs before age 30, when their ovarian reserve is optimal.

Fertility preservation is the simplest and most adequate technique for women who want to have a biological child after age 40.

Check out this for information: Fertility Preservation – Cost & Options for Retaining Your Fertility.

IVF with PGD

In the case of women who haven’t frozen their eggs at a younger age and are now 40 or more, the good news is that they can still have a baby via In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).

For IVF to be possible, your ovarian reserve must be still good, that is, able to release eggs of good quality after undergoing ovarian stimulation.

However, the success rate of IVF with own eggs in women over 40 is low, as it is likely that she produces eggs with anomalies that lead to unviable embryos.

For this reason, Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is highly recommended in these cases, as it allows the specialist to select and transfer healthy embryos only.

Recommended for you: What Is PGD or Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis?

Egg donation

If your ovarian reserve is too low and the number of eggs obtained is too low or their quality too poor even after undergoing ovarian stimulation, egg donation is another possibility.

Egg donors are young, healthy girls. In other words, they are free from genetic and systemic diseases. The quality of donor eggs is considerably high, which allows women of advanced maternal age to fulfill their dream of having a child.

Success rates of donor-egg IVF in women aged 40 or over are 37.6% on average (birth rate), which differs considerably if we compare it to the birth rate using own eggs (12.2% approximately).

Thanks to IVF with donor eggs, a number of women have the chance to grow their family in spite of their age.

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.

Pregnancy risks

Once the main obstacle is overcome, that is, once you’ve received the good news that you are pregnant in spite of your age, there is still one more barrier: carrying the child until birth for 40 weeks (9 months).

The risk if experiencing complications during a geriatric pregnancy (term used to refer to pregnancies that occur after age 35) is high for both the woman and the fetus. The following are the most remarkable ones:

Moreover, as mentioned earlier, if pregnancy occurs with own eggs, the risk of chromosomal abnormalities is higher. For instance, the chances for a child to be born with Down, Edwards, or Patau syndrome is greater at 40.

FAQs from users

What are the chances of getting pregnant at 40 naturally?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

The chances of getting pregnant at 40 naturally are 5% or less. And, from age 45 onwards, the chances are almost non-existen.

Read more: Can a Woman Get Pregnant at Age 50? – Chances & Risks.

What are the symptoms of pregnancy in your 40s?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

It depends on each woman. However, as explained above, the symptoms may be more annoying due to age.

Also, many women think that they have fallen pregnant at 40 accidentally when they start having menopausal symptoms, as they are actually quite similar, including, fatigue, sleep problems, headaches, bloating, cramping, mood changes…

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.

Can I still freeze my eggs at 40?

By Andrea Rodrigo BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Egg quality diminishes as the woman ages. Such decrease is more apparent from age 35, and that is the reason why the general recommendation is to cryopreserve them before this age. By doing this, their quality will be higher, and subsequently their survival rates, and the chances of getting pregnant in the future.

What are the causes of infertility at age 40?

By Sara Salgado BSc, MSc (embryologist).

In couples where the woman is 40 or older, it is likely that the cause of infertility is due to ovary problems associated with advanced maternal age. It is quite common for women at this stage in their reproductive years to experience hormonal imbalances that cause their menstrual cycle to develop inadequately. Moreover, the ovarian reserve experiences a dramatical decrease from age 35 onwards.

How can I get pregnant at 40 fast?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Conceiving after 40 is more difficult than in your 20s or 30s, so the chances for a woman to fall pregnant at 40 fast are very low. It’s likely that you get pregnant more faster if you try with a fertility treatment like IVF with donor eggs, or use frozen eggs in case you cryopreserved them at a younger age.

Is it possible to undergo IVF from age 40 onwards?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

The fertility potential of women starts declining at age 40, and therefore the success rates of IVF with own eggs are substantially lower at this point. In short, the chances for success depend on egg quality, but also on egg quantity.

This is the reason why most clinics around the world have an upper age limit for IVF patients using their own eggs. In general, such limit is set between the ages of 43 and 45.

In this sense, IVF with donor eggs may be a good option, as younger women produce high quality eggs, with a lower rate of chromosomal abnormalities to be present. By age 40, 60% of the eggs produced are abnormal.

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.

How many eggs does a woman have at 40?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

At age 40, the ovarian reserve contains about 13.000 eggs. Compared to age 25, when it has 130.000, and age 30-35, when the ovarian reserve ranges between 70.000 and 30.000, this figure is considerably low.

You may also enjoy some further information reading this: How Many Eggs Does a Woman Have? – Your Egg Count by Age.

What are the chances of getting pregnant after 40 with IVF?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

The chances of getting pregnant after 40 with IVF range from 10 to 13% on average. Learn more about IVF here: What Is In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)? – Process, Cost & Success Rates.

Can you have a third baby at 40?

By Zaira Salvador BSc, MSc (embryologist).

Yes, it’s possible. But the pregnancy may not be similar to the previous pregnancies if the time gap between pregnancies is too long. It’s possible that the discomforts and symptoms you experience are worse, including nausea, gas, weight gain, etc., aside from all the risks that a pregnancy at 40 carries.

Also, a third pregnancy translates, in most cases, into taking care of a newborn along with the older siblings in case they are still children. This increases the level of fatigue and exhaustion for the woman in comparison with previous pregnancies.

Suggested for you

Some women decide to have children even later and start trying to conceive when they are in their 50s. Click here to read more: Can a Woman Get Pregnant at Age 50? – Chances & Risks.

Do you want to learn more about IVF with donor eggs? Get more info by clicking the following link: What’s Being an Egg Donor Recipient Like? – Preparation & Process.

Finally, if you are 40 or more and need help to have a baby, we recommend that you read the full list of fertility options available nowadays here: What Are Infertility Treatments? – Definition, Types & Costs.

Sharing is caring

Our editors have made great efforts to create this content for you. By sharing this post, you are helping us to keep ourselves motivated to work even harder.

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
 Andrea Rodrigo
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology from the Polytechnic University of Valencia. Master's Degree in Biotechnology of Human Assisted Reproduction from the University of Valencia along with the Valencian Infertility Institute (IVI). Postgraduate course in Medical Genetics. More information
 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
 Sara Salgado
BSc, MSc
Embryologist
Degree in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). Master's Degree in Human Assisted Reproduction from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM). Certificate of University Expert in Genetic Diagnosis Techniques from the University of Valencia (UV). More information
Follow us on social media

Find the latest news on assisted reproduction in our channels.