The last thing you anticipated was an unplanned pregnancy at 40. You might have started out wondering if your symptoms were signs of perimenopause, but now you think you could be pregnant. Are there differences between perimenopause and pregnancy symptoms? Can you actually be unexpectedly pregnant at 40? And can you have a healthy pregnancy? The answer to all these questions is yes, and we’ll explore the answers to these questions here.
Pregnant or Perimenopause?
Anyone who unexpectedly experiences symptoms of pregnancy after age 40 wonders if what they’re feeling is due to perimenopause rather than pregnancy. Pregnancy and perimenopause indeed share similar symptoms as follows:
- Menstrual changes
- Difficulty sleeping
- Mood changes
- Bloating and cramping
- Hot flashes
Yet the following symptoms are usually unique to pregnancy:
- Tender/swollen breasts
- Food aversion
If you are feeling these unique pregnancy symptoms, you undoubtedly have many more questions like, “Can I really be pregnant?” and, “Am I high-risk if so?”
Can I Be Pregnant at 40?
Yes, not only can you be pregnant at 40, but you can also have a healthy pregnancy. Becoming pregnant in the first place is the hard part. According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a woman only has about a five percent chance of becoming pregnant each month once she turns 40.
There was a time when women were told that pregnancy after age 35 was a bad idea, but that has changed. Advances in prenatal care and medicine have made this the safest time in history to be pregnant at 40, and it continues to improve.
It’s also a popular time to be 40 and pregnant as trends reveal the number of women giving birth in their 40s (and 50s) is at record highs; the average age of women when they give birth for the first time has consistently risen since 1970. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 1970, 1 out of 100 women giving birth was over age 35, and now that number is approximately 1 in 7. Since 1990, the rates of first pregnancies between the ages of 40-44 have more than doubled.
Now that you know you’re not the only one experiencing your situation and that you can have a healthy pregnancy when you’re 40, you might still be wondering about risks.
What About High-Risk Pregnancy?
When you’re 40 years old or beyond, you may be wondering about increased risks if you choose to continue your pregnancy. All pregnancies after age 40 are labeled as high risk, which sounds scary. Yet, a high-risk pregnancy doesn’t mean you won’t have a healthy pregnancy. What it does mean is that you will receive extra care (like seeing a high-risk obstetrician) to have a good pregnancy outcome.
Your doctor will monitor you closely for pregnancy complications, including:
- Miscarriage (rate near 50% after 40)
- Gestational diabetes
- High blood pressure (sometimes leading to preeclampsia)
- Preterm labor
- Low birth weight
At Willowbrook Women’s Center, we understand the shock and difficulty of discovering you’re unexpectedly pregnant at 40, and we’re here to help you explore your options and resources. Our team is compassionate to your situation. You can rest assured that you can discuss all of your concerns with our skilled advocates and licensed medical professionals in a judgment-free setting. Make an appointment today!