Is it too late for a baby?
Short answer: no. But there are things you can do to increase your chances of pregnancy after age 35.
Thinking about getting pregnant after the age of 35? Despite the fact that fertility begins to drop after a certain age, more people are starting their families later in life.
The key to having a healthy pregnancy at any age? Make sure you're healthy before conceiving.
Jennifer Gell, MD, obstetrician/gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist at Geisinger, says it's important to consider the risks, too.
“Your egg supply decreases as you age," she says. "The eggs you do have carry a higher risk of chromosomal problems, which could cause miscarriage or birth defects."
Getting healthy for pregnancy
To increase your odds of getting pregnant after 35, Dr. Gell suggest these 5 tips:
1. Schedule a checkup
If you’re trying to get pregnant after 35, see your OB/GYN first to discuss your health. Depending on your specific circumstances, they may recommend you see a fertility specialist.
“A fertility specialist will check your fallopian tubes and ovaries to make sure they’re functioning right,” said Dr. Gell. “They may also test your partner for problems with his sperm.”
2. Maintain a healthy weight
Being 35+ and obese during pregnancy puts you at higher risk for some issues.
You’re more likely to deliver before 37 weeks, deliver by cesarean section and have gestational diabetes. And you're more likely to get preeclampsia — a complication that causes high blood pressure and high protein in your urine.
The goal is to get to your healthiest weight possible, but you’ll benefit from any weight loss.
3. Stop drinking and smoking — and eat well
This is good advice for anyone getting pregnant, but it’s even more important when you’re over 35. Avoid drinking alcohol and using tobacco products, as they increase the chances of delivering a baby with birth defects or low birth weight. Eat a healthy diet for a boost of folic acid, which is important for brain and spinal cord development.
4. Take prenatal vitamins
The folic acid in prenatal vitamins is a safeguard against birth defects — especially for pregnant people over age 35.
5. Track ovulation
Understanding when you ovulate increases your chances of conceiving. Ovulation trackers can help you figure out when you’re most fertile each cycle, giving you the best chance of getting pregnant.
“Your doctor will discuss, based on your own cycles, your most fertile time each month and may recommend using an ovulation tracker," says Dr. Gell. "The longer you leave it to chance when you’re over 35 or 40, the fewer viable eggs you have."
If you’re able to conceive naturally, be sure to attend all doctor appointments during the first eight weeks. These early appointments will allow your doctor to track your health and the baby’s health and increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy.
When to consider fertility treatment options
If you’re over 35 and you’ve been trying to get pregnant for six months, you should see your doctor or a fertility specialist for help.
If your doctor hasn’t already, they may test to get a view of your fallopian tubes and check for fibroid uterine tumors. If those tests are clear, it may be time to consider fertility treatments.
There are many treatments available, including:
• Fertility drugs
Your doctor may recommend trying fertility drugs to spur ovulation. The drugs will trigger the release of at least one egg — sometimes more — during each cycle. This can increase the chance of multiple births.
• Intrauterine insemination (IUI)
IUI involves depositing concentrated sperm into the uterus during ovulation, which increases the chance of sperm and egg meeting. This is sometimes used in combination with fertility drugs.
• In vitro fertilization (IVF)
During IVF, eggs removed from the ovaries are combined with sperm in a lab. After the egg fertilization, the resulting embryo is implanted back into the uterus. If more than one embryo is implanted, there’s an increased chance of multiple births.
• Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)
During ICSI, one sperm is injected into one egg to increase the chances of fertilization. This procedure is often combined with IVF.
“The success rates for fertility treatments for different people vary, no matter the age," says Dr. Gell. "It’s important to give yourself the best shot at delivering a healthy baby by taking good care of yourself before and during pregnancy."
Top 6 pregnancy myths, debunked
What it’s like to have gestational diabetes during pregnancy
Meet Jennifer Gell, MD