Your Body Now: Having a baby in your forties is common these days, and the majority of older mothers have normal pregnancies, says Dr. Bernstein. Still, the risk of complications rises after age 40.
- If you're having multiples, there's an increased chance of delivering preterm or low birth weight babies. The Centers for Disease Control says the youngest and oldest mothers are the most likely to deliver low birth weight infants; however, much of the elevated LBW risk among older mothers is associated with their higher multiple birth rates.
- After age 40, the rates of complications that surround physically being able to carry an unborn baby, including gestational diabetes, elevated blood pressure, and preeclampsia, dramatically rise.
- Your risk of chromosomal abnormalities continues to go up. (At 40, your chance of having a baby with Down syndrome is one in 106.)
- The good news? If you're physically fit, eat well, and don't have preexisting health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, your overall risk of other pregnancy complications isn't markedly higher than that of a woman in her twenties or thirties.
Your Mind Now: Unless you experience an unplanned pregnancy (surprise!), you're definitely prepared to have a baby at this point in your life, particularly if you married late or if you've gone through years of fertility treatments. Here are some things you can expect:
- The self-confidence and perspective you've picked up in your life may make you more patient in dealing with a demanding newborn.
- You might have higher expectations of yourself than someone in her twenties or thirties since you've waited so long and perhaps invested so much to get pregnant. If you yearn for a nap or a break, get help—babies can wear out even the youngest parents, and a few hours to yourself here and there can recharge your batteries and make you feel more able to meet the demands of taking care of a little one. Also, try not to feel guilty for going back to work, missing your old, pre-baby life, or not having loads of fun every day. Remind yourself, "Your baby doesn't have to be perfect, and you don't have to be the perfect mother," says Dr. Howard.
- It's likely you won't have as many friends with small children at this age, so don't hesitate to make friends with younger moms. "Motherhood is the great unifier," Dr. Howard says. "When you're with your baby in the park, age issues sort of melt away because babies are the focus."