How old is too old to be having a baby?

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19 October
22:06
October
2016

It’s impossible to give a definitive answer about the upper age limit for having a baby because every woman is different, and therefore every woman’s fertility is different. Age has a huge effect on fertility and a woman’s egg quality, but there are other factors that also play a role.

A woman’s health and fitness can naturally affect her chances of having a baby, because certain medical conditions affect ovulation. For example, women who have an underactive thyroid may not be ovulating properly due to low levels of the hormone thyroxine and may need treatment to be able to conceive.

A woman’s family history can impact her fertility. For example if her mother went through a premature menopause, the daughter has an increased risk of having an early menopause and may experience problems conceiving due to depleted egg reserves.

Lifestyle can also affect a woman’s chances of conceiving. Being overweight or underweight can cause hormonal imbalances that affect ovulation, and these women need to optimise their body weight when trying for a baby. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome tend to be overweight, which is a common cause for ovulation problems. Losing weight should be the first step for such women rather than taking medication.

The success rate for assisted conception reduces after the age of 34, but every woman is different.

So all of these things affect a woman’s chances of conception to a certain degree but the age is really the most important factor. If a woman is fit and healthy – physically, emotionally and mentally – and she is having her period and ovulating, I would say she should continue trying naturally. Nature will decide when she is able to have a baby.

If a woman is struggling to conceive naturally we are then looking at assisted conception using a woman’s eggs (IVF/IUI). The success rate for assisted conception reduces with increasing age due to reduced egg numbers and quality.

A woman could have a baby with donor eggs even at the age of 50 or later. Most celebrity stories about becoming a mother in 50s are either with donor eggs, or their own eggs frozen when they were younger.

However, while conceiving artificially up to the age of 50 or in the early 50s may be possible, it also means we have a greater responsibility to take the welfare of the future child, as well as the mother into account. By welfare, I mean the psychological and social welfare of the child and how they will feel having an older mother as they grow up. In these cases we need to balance the health and welfare of the child with the health of the mother.

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