In the olden days, for most women, turning 50 indicated that the time to retirement was coming closer. However, today, the number of women having their first baby well after the age of 35 has gone up exponentially. Of course, we have all heard about the ticking of our biological clock, and it is true as well that age can definitely make a difference in the success of natural conception. But, thanks to advancements in reproductive technologies, more and more women are considering having a baby in their 40s and even after hitting their 50s. If you are thinking about having a baby at 50, here’s everything you need to know about whether it is possible to have a baby at 50.
Are There Any Benefits To Having A Baby At 50?
Traditionally, people have been planning to have their children in their 20s and 30s. However, in today’s world, more and more women feel that they are not ready to make such a big commitment in their 20s and 30s. (1, 2) Many think that there are several advantages to waiting or having another child in the family several years after they have had their first. There are so many options to explore today – you may wish to establish or advance your career, you may wish to travel, or you simply want to become more comfortable with your own self before thinking about starting a family. (3) These are some of the most popular reasons for putting off having your first child till later in life. Many times it is also possible that you found the right partner later on in life and then decided to have children together. (4)
When you are in your 40s and 50s, it is, of course, more likely that you have better financial stability and flexibility that will make it easier for you and your partner to take care of your children. You also have more life experiences. While this still doesn’t mean that you will have all the answers when it comes to parenting, but you will still be wiser than you were in your 20s and 30s.
Some women also decide to have children with a large gap in their ages. There are benefits to this that appeal to many families around the world. Having a mix of older and younger children means there are older ones to take care of the younger ones if you are busy or have to work.
If you already have a child when you get to your 40s and 50s, you will get to enjoy the joys of becoming a mother all over again, and possibly with lesser stress than the first time around.
Some of the benefits of having a child later in life include:
- Your Child May Be Smarter: If the baby’s father is also older and in his 50s, there is a possibility that your child will be more intelligent. A research team came up with a ‘Geek Score’ for boys, which included IQ, the ability to focus on various interests, and also concerns about fitting in with their peers. Boys whose both parents were older were found to have higher IQs and were also more focused on their interests. They were also much less concerned about fitting it. These are some of the expected traits that can indicate future academic success if you have a male child in your 50s. (5, 6)
- You Will Be More Patient: Older moms have been found to be more patient. They are also better at setting boundaries and are less likely to yell at their kids or give severe punishments. As a result of this, your kids are likely to experience fewer social, emotional, and behavioral issues. A study found that older moms also have less anxiety during the pregnancy months. They were also more likely to be in a stable relationship and were financial more stable as well. (7, 8)
- Your Preschooler Will Have An Edge In Development And Health: Children who are born to mothers in their 50s have been found to have improved health and overall development as compared to children who were born to younger mothers. In one study, older maternal age was found to be associated with fewer unintentional injuries, increased immunization rates, and fewer hospitalization at the age of 5 years. Their children also had better and more developed language skills while also having fewer emotional, behavioral, and social problems. (9, 10)
Risks Of Having Babies In Your 50s
While there might be several benefits to having a baby later in life, it is important to remember that it is also going to be more challenging to conceive a baby naturally at this age. Your pregnancy will also be considered a high-risk one. Some of the major risks of having babies in your 50s include:
- Gestational diabetes
- Ectopic pregnancy – a type of pregnancy in which the egg attaches outside of the uterus. (11, 12)
- Preeclampsia – a type of high blood pressure that develops only during pregnancy and it can be life-threatening. (13, 14)
- A higher risk of needing to undergo a cesarean section delivery.
- Miscarriage (15)
- Having a premature birth
Along with this, there are also several lifestyle changes you will need to consider. While many women welcome their 50s as an opportunity to finally have some ‘me time,’ having a baby is going to disrupt this. You may find that some of the other milestones in your life, such as retirement or traveling plans, are not going to remain the same.
There are also some risk factors that pertain to the baby when you conceive in your 50s. The older the maternal age, the higher is the risk of the following: (16)
- Having a baby with birth defects
- Having a baby with learning disabilities
- Having a baby with low birth weight
- Having a child with chromosome-related issues, such as Down syndrome. (17)
This is why it is recommended to most older parents that they undergo pre-conception counseling and discuss their reproductive goals with their doctor. Your doctor will be able to explain all the risks and considerations in more detail.
How to Conceive at 50?
A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have. Once you hit puberty and the menstrual cycle begins, you start to release one mature egg in every cycle. However, there is a dramatic drop in egg count once you start menstruating, and the numbers keep going lower every year until you reach menopause.
It is estimated that an average woman has only 1000 oocyte or egg cells by the time she turns 51 years. This is a sharp drop from the 500,000 eggs present during puberty and the 25,000 eggs left in your mid-30s. (18)
While getting pregnant with a reduced number of eggs is not impossible, but it does mean that you may have some trouble getting pregnant naturally.
Another essential factor to consider is that the quality of the egg also decreases as we age. This can make conception challenging and also increase the risk of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities. This can even make early pregnancy loss much more likely.
If you are above the age of 35 and have already tried to get pregnant naturally for at least six months without any success, it is best to consult a fertility specialist. (19) However, if you are in your 50s and actively trying to get pregnant, it is better not to wait for six months. The sooner you see a fertility specialist, the better it will be considering the rapid depletion of the number of eggs by this age.
A fertility specialist may begin the process by prescribing certain fertility drugs to boost your ovulation. This may especially be helpful if you have already reached perimenopause, a period when your cycles start becoming increasingly unpredictable.
For many women, simply taking these fertility drugs is enough, and they successfully conceive in very little time. These drugs work by increasing the number of mature eggs that get released during every cycle, therefore creating chances for the sperm to fertilize the numerous eggs.
If you still have trouble conceiving, your fertility specialist will inform you about other reproductive technologies that are available. They may recommend in vitro fertilization (IVF), which is a commonly used method that retrieves the eggs from your body and then fertilizes the eggs with sperm separately in a laboratory. The fertilized eggs are then injected back into the uterus. During this procedure, multiple eggs are retrieved at one time since not all of them are expected to get successfully fertilized. You may even end up with zero fertilized eggs. Usually, one or multiple embryos are inserted back into the uterus after completing the first round of IVF. (20, 21)
At the same time, it is also very much possible that all the embryos that have been transferred will implant. This results in a pregnancy with multiples. A multiple pregnancy makes for a higher risk pregnancy, especially at an advanced maternal age. So you should make sure that you discuss all these possibilities with your partner and doctor. (22)
Because of your age and possibly lower egg quality, you might be encouraged by your healthcare team to do genetic testing on the embryo/embryos that are successfully fertilized in the IVF process. While this can be expensive and the results are not always 100 percent accurate, but this will help you detect any genetic abnormalities at this state, and choosing the best embryos will give you the highest likelihood of a successful pregnancy.
Option of Using Frozen Eggs
If you are certain that you want to start a family at a later stage in life, freezing your eggs when you are younger is a great option. This process is known as cryopreservation and also involves IVF. The idea behind cryopreservation is that you freeze your eggs or embryos until the time you are ready to use them.
Cryopreservation, though, does not guarantee that it will definitely lead to a successful pregnancy, but the frozen egg quality tends to be much better when you are younger. However, the rate of live births from frozen eggs is much lower. (23, 24)
Option of Using a Gestational Carrier
Planning to have a baby in your 50s can bring about several conception issues. This includes lack of fertilization, inability to ovulate or release eggs, and a higher risk of miscarriage. In such situations, you might consider the option of using a gestational carrier. A gestational carrier or a gestational surrogate is another woman who helps carry your child to term in their womb. You can take the help of your doctor to find a suitable surrogate if you choose to opt for using a gestational carrier.
A gestational carrier can conceive through IVF with the use of embryos created with donor eggs or your own eggs. There are a variety of options that are available here, depending on your own preferences as well as your fertility state. (25)
Even though the process of having a baby in your 50s might not necessarily be easy, it is possible. You have not yet hit menopause, and there are many options that are available to help you conceive. However, before you try to get pregnant naturally, it is always better to have a discussion with a fertility specialist about your overall health and about the risk factors associated with a pregnancy at this age.
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