Whether or not they already have children, many people find themselves wishing for a child in midlife and wonder not only if they can get pregnant, but how carrying a baby might affect their health. Unlike a few generations ago when most people began having children quite young, many of today’s couples wait until they have their careers well under way before starting their families. Midlife babies are no longer uncommon, yet there are things to consider when planning to become pregnant in midlife.
Fertility in Midlife
Those who hope to have children in midlife may find that getting pregnant isn’t as easy as it might have been in their twenties. Fertility decreases with age for both sexes, but women especially notice a sharp decline in their fertility in their forties. As the menopause approaches, menstrual cycles may become irregular and many women no longer ovulate every month, decreasing their chances of becoming pregnant.
The seemingly endless stories of middle aged celebrities giving birth may lead midlife women to believe that fertility won’t an issue for them, but the fact remains that most women are not as fertile in midlife as they once were. That’s not to say, however, that middle aged women cannot get pregnant – it happens every day – it’s just that some women may find that they need to seek help from fertility experts in order to conceive.
Health Considerations for Midlife Parents
Ideally, all couples hoping to conceive a child would take steps to improve their health before becoming pregnant, but that can be especially important in midlife when health problems often crop up for the first time. Beginning with a thorough physical exam is wise to assess current health status and provide both prospective parents with ideas for improving and/or maintaining their health. Pregnancy, while a natural condition, can be physically taxing, especially for those with pre-existing conditions. Getting into good condition, addressing health concerns, and paying attention to exercise and nutrition can all make it more comfortable to be pregnant in midlife. Plus, once the baby is born, midlife parents will soon find themselves starved for sleep, followed by years of chasing after an active child, so keeping healthy is a must!
Beginning a Second Family in Midlife
While some midlife parents are first-timers, many others have older children and are starting second families. Remarriage in midlife is common, and many couples hope to have a child or children together. Blended families are no longer unusual, but they can come with challenges. One of the most difficult times for blended families can come when couples decide to add another child to the mix. Existing children may feel threatened, worrying that they will be displaced by the new baby, who will be the first in the household to share both parents. Care must be taken to assure all of the children that the newest addition, while wanted and welcomed, will not be viewed as more special than the others.
Unplanned Pregnancy in Midlife
Unplanned pregnancies in middle age are a fairly common occurrence. As women’s menstrual cycles become erratic, ovulation can be sporadic and hard to predict, making birth control a bit trickier, especially if the couple mistakenly believes that they are past the age of worrying about getting pregnant. Those who don’t wish to get pregnant should talk to their health care providers for advice on appropriate birth control. Until women have fully completed the menopause, there is a chance that they may conceive, so if a midlife baby is not in the plans, they and their partners need to be aware that they are not yet ready to forgo birth control!