Can I Be Pregnant at 40?

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
  • Headaches
  • Bloating and cramping
  • Hot flashes

Yet the following symptoms are usually unique to pregnancy:  

  • Tender/swollen breasts
  • Food aversion
  • Constipation
  • Nausea/vomiting

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

More Questions?

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!

How Common Are Pregnancy Complications?

Every pregnant woman has some level of concern about pregnancy complications. It’s normal to wonder how a pregnancy will affect your health; however, there is good news: the vast majority of women have healthy pregnancies without problems. And, most difficulties of pregnancy can be managed well. 

Here we’ll discuss four of the more common pregnancy complications women experience.

1. Hyperemesis Gravidarum

There are numerous benefits to pregnancy hormones; they keep your pregnancy healthy, yet they are also what contributes to symptoms you might be experiencing, including morning sickness.

Most women have some morning sickness, but in 0.8-2.3 percent of pregnancies, it’s severe, causing weight loss and dehydration. When this happens, it’s called hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). The term comes from Greek, where hyper means “over” as in excessive, and emesis translates to “vomiting.” Anyone who has experienced HG can vouch for the accurate description!

The most common reason for hospital admissions in the first-trimester pregnancy is due to dehydration from vomiting. HG often subsides between the twelfth and twentieth week of pregnancy.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a known way to prevent HG, but you can manage it through the following tips:

  • Small, frequent meals
  • Avoid spicy, fatty, and oily foods
  • Taking ginger and Vitamin B6 (check with your doctor first!)
  • Accupressure, acupuncture, or acustimulation
  • Antinausea and antihistamine medications

2. Miscarriage

A more common pregnancy complication is miscarriage. According to the March of Dimes (MOD), miscarriage is when a pregnancy ends on its own before the twentieth week of pregnancy.

50 to 75 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. This number may shock you, but it’s because most miscarriages happen just after a fertilized egg implants into the uterine line and before women realize they’re pregnant (known as a “chemical pregnancy”). Miscarriage rates drop to 10-25 percent in known pregnancies, and 80 percent of those occur in the first trimester.

If you’ve had a miscarriage, know that women often blame themselves or ask what they could have done to prevent their miscarriage. However, almost all miscarriages are unpreventable and caused by the embryo having genetic problems.

3. Infections

If you suspect you have an infection while you’re pregnant, it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent pregnancy complications.

There are several bacterial, viral, and parasitic infections women can contract during pregnancy. Some common infections in pregnancy include:

  • Urinary tract infection
  • Yeast infection
  • Bacterial vaginosis
  • Hepatitis B
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Viruses including the common cold, influenza, and Zika

Prevention includes washing your hands, not touching your face, disinfecting surfaces, and getting vaccinations. Untreated STIs can lead to scarring and ectopic pregnancy (pregnancy outside of the uterus), so be sure to get your recommended screenings — even if you don’t have symptoms. Infections cause approximately half of all preterm births.

4. Preterm Labor

Ninety percent of pregnancies last at least 37 weeks. Preterm labor is when your uterus starts having contractions, and your cervix begins to dilate before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It can lead to giving birth too early (preterm birth).

You can’t always prevent preterm labor, but you can take steps to reduce your risk by making healthy lifestyle choices. Get prenatal care throughout your pregnancy and see your dentist for check-ups. If you smoke, quit, and skip recreational drugs and alcohol. Get adequate rest, exercise, and nutrition.


Is the possibility that you might have complications making you anxious? If you’re having doubts about whether you should continue your pregnancy, Willowbrook Women’s Center is a great first step. We can begin by confirming your pregnancy with a no-cost, lab-quality pregnancy test. Contact us today.

How Can a Virus Affect My Pregnancy?

Few things are as stressful as discovering you’re unexpectedly pregnant. It’s understandable to be overwhelmed with many decisions about your pregnancy because it impacts your education, career, relationships, and life. The entire process of finding the trustworthy support you need to make an informed choice can take its toll.

Just when you feel like you’re on solid footing, doubt sets in as you wonder how getting a virus will affect your pregnancy. No one enjoys getting sick. But when the thought of a viral illness is added to an unexpected pregnancy, it can really spark uncertainty and anxiety. The information we provide here may help set your mind at ease.

What is a Viral Illness?

Viruses are microscopic germs that sometimes cause you to get sick. Unlike bacterial infections, viral illnesses can’t be cured by antibiotics. There are medications to help with the symptoms of viral infections, but your body’s immune system needs to fight it off.

Viruses can cause illnesses including the common cold, influenza (the “flu”), cytomegalovirus (CMV), chickenpox, fifth disease, rubella (German measles), and others.

One way to prevent catching a virus is to keep your immune system healthy.

Your Immune System During Pregnancy

Some think that your immune system wouldn’t be available to fight off viruses throughout your pregnancy. However, current research reveals it might be stronger during the beginning and end of pregnancy.

Researcher, Dr. Brice Gaudilliere, discovered that your body adjusts your immune system’s strength and weakness, so it’s perfectly timed to reach the best pregnancy outcome.

Your immune system kicks in strongly during the first twelve weeks of pregnancy to help it survive the critical early weeks of development. For the next fifteen weeks, your immune system slows down to give your fetus a chance to grow without your immune system attacking it. Then your immune system ramps up again in preparation for a successful delivery.

These essential actions can help keep your immune system healthy:

  • Get good quality and quantity of sleep (minimum 8 hours).
  • Take adequate rest breaks during the day.
  • Minimize stress.
  • Eat more whole plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes).
  • Eat healthy fats to reduce inflammation.
  • Take your prenatal vitamins.
  • Stay up-to-date on vaccines your doctor recommends.
  • Keep your gut bacteria balanced (with probiotics or fermented foods like yogurt).
  • Get adequate exercise (approved by your doctor).
  • Get fresh air, and don’t smoke.
  • Maintain good hygiene (handwashing, etc.).

How Can A Virus Affect My Pregnancy?

Most fetuses’ aren’t harmed when a pregnant mother gets a viral illness; however, a high fever from the flu in early pregnancy can cause complications. Before you feel panicked, call your doctor about taking a medication to lower your temperature if you have one.

According to March of Dimes, if you get the flu while you’re pregnant, you could be at a higher risk of preterm labor (labor before 37 weeks of pregnancy) and premature birth (birth before 37 weeks of pregnancy).

Benjamin Franklin’s words make sense when it comes to preventing a viral illness during your pregnancy, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Your best defense is prevention!

How to Prevent Getting a Virus While You’re Pregnant

Cold and flu are spread through microscopic droplets from the respiratory system of another person. If they cough or sneeze and you come in contact with their virus, you can also become infected. Sexually transmitted viruses are from an infected partner.

You might be more susceptible to viruses while you’re pregnant, so take extra precautions to care for yourself. Pregnancy isn’t the time to “tough it out.”

In addition to the suggestions on keeping your immune system more robust throughout your pregnancy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers the following tips to prevent you from becoming infected with a virus while you’re pregnant:

  • Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and always after you use the bathroom and before you eat. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water aren’t available.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Avoid people who you know have an infection.
  • Wash your dishes with hot, soapy water (or a dishwasher).
  • Don’t share your dishes, glasses, utensils, or toothbrush.
  • Stay away from wild or pet rodents and their droppings.
  • Protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as HIV and hepatitis B.

What About COVID-19 (Coronavirus)?

Pregnancy, in the best of circumstances, raises many questions for a pregnant woman. It’s normal to be particularly concerned when you’re pregnant amid a pandemic.

There is much we still don’t know about COVID-19 because it’s a brand new virus, but trends are being reported as more women give birth. If you’re under the care of a physician, make a list of questions to discuss regarding your specific situation. If not, we hope these answers to the most commonly asked questions are helpful.

  1. It appears that you are not more susceptible to COVID-19 when you’re pregnant than not pregnant.
  • If you catch a cold or flu virus while you’re pregnant, you are at higher risk for respiratory complications. You would have a similar higher risk if you contracted COVID-19 while you’re pregnant.
  • The coronavirus hasn’t been found in amniotic fluid or breastmilk, so it can’t be passed on directly through them.  
  • You can still breastfeed if you desire. If you are infected with COVID-19, hospitals are still encouraging breastfeeding with greater infection precautions (handwashing and masks).
  • In the beginning, a few hospitals didn’t allow a support person to be present during birth, but now hospitals are advised to let one support person be present with you when you give birth so that you won’t be alone.
  • Pregnancy and birth classes are still available online so that you will feel prepared.
  • There are cases of newborns testing positive to mothers who are positive for COVID-19, but they have been symptomless or mild.
  • You can reduce your risks from COVID-19: follow shelter-in-place orders, practice social distancing, wear a mask if you must be out, and heed the tips we’ve discussed to boost your immune system and prevent the spread of viruses.

Improving your immune system and taking preventive steps can reduce your risk of viruses while you’re pregnant. Willowbrook Women’s Center has licensed medical professionals available to confidentially answer your questions and help guide you through an unepected pregnancy. Contact us today. You can also call or text our 24-hour hotline at  816-244-7824.

Can You Change Your Mind After Taking the Abortion Pill?

Did you take the first abortion pill but now regret your decision? You no longer want an abortion, but fear it’s too late to continue your pregnancy. Can you change your mind after taking the abortion pill? The answer is, “Yes!”

A physician-developed protocol, called abortion pill reversal (APR), was created for women who change their minds after taking the first abortion pill but haven’t taken the second dose. If this describes you, you aren’t alone. APR treatment was developed because of the number of women who changed their minds after starting the abortion pill process. Many have gone on to carry their pregnancies to term.

But timing is important. APR treatment is most successful within 72 hours of taking the first abortion pill with the highest success rates within 24  hours.

How the Abortion Pill Works

The abortion pill is a medication abortion rather than a surgical abortion. It’s not the same as the morning-after pill. You can obtain a medication abortion up to 70 days after the first day of your last period, but only through a medical provider.

A medical abortion typically consists of taking two medications. The first medication, mifepristone, is taken at a doctor’s office or clinic. The second medication, misoprostol, is taken at home 24-48 hours later.


Progesterone is a hormone vital to support your pregnancy. Mifepristone, the first pill you take in a medication abortion, binds to progesterone receptors and blocks your uterus’ and placenta’s ability to recognize your body’s progesterone. When this happens, the sustaining lining of your uterus begins to break down, and the embryo’s heart ceases to beat.


24-48 hours after taking mifepristone, you will take the second medication, misoprostol. Misoprostol works by causing bleeding and strong cramps to expel the pregnancy from your uterus. You can expect to pass clots and tissue. The abortion should be complete within 4-48 hours. However, lighter cramping may continue for about a week, and bleeding to spotting for about two to three weeks.

Some women report distress upon seeing the expelled pregnancy. Since the abortion happens at home, you may not prepared to see the results of ending your pregnancy. It’s a good idea to have someone with you in the event of any complications.

You Have Changed Your Mind. Now What?

If you have only taken the first medication, mifepristone, and you’ve changed your mind, it might not be too late! Don’t take the second medication, misoprostol, and contact Abortion Pill Rescue right away. Like you, many other women have changed their minds after beginning the abortion process, and the Abortion Pill Rescue team created a helpline staffed by medical professionals to help walk you through what to do next.

The Abortion Pill Reversal Process

  1. Don’t take the second medication if you want your pregnancy to continue and contact the Abortion Pill Rescue helpline within 24 hours to increase the chances of a successful abortion reversal. However, even if more than 72 hours have passed, still reach out for help.
  2. If the helpline medical professional determines an APR is possible, you will receive a referral to a local medical provider who can see you right away.
  3. The medical provider will complete an ultrasound to determine if your pregnancy is still viable (if the embryo has a heartbeat) and verify how far along you are.
  4. If the ultrasound determines your pregnancy is still viable, the medical provider will prescribe progesterone. Since mifepristone binds to progesterone receptors, the medical provider will give you extra progesterone, so it’s presence is more numerous than the mifepristone.

The progesterone will be given to you orally, vaginally, or by injection, and you will continue taking it until the end of your first trimester of pregnancy. This protocol allows your body to recognize the pregnancy-supporting progesterone the mifepristone was blocking.

Does Abortion Pill Reversal Work?

Studies reveal that 64-68% of women who receive the APR protocol go on to have successful pregnancies.

If a woman chooses not to receive the APR treatment but doesn’t take misoprostol after taking mifepristone, she may still have nearly a 50% chance of having a successful pregnancy. The choice is yours.

Are There Side Effects or Risks to Abortion Pill Reversal?

APR is considered safe. Physicians have been using progesterone safely in early pregnancy for over 50 years. Just be sure to follow your medical provider’s instructions carefully.

Also, note that some progesterone includes peanut oil. Tell the medical care provider if you’re allergic to peanuts so they can give you peanut-free progesterone.

Possible side effects of progesterone can include PMS-like symptoms, nausea, sleepiness, low energy, dizziness, and headaches. Drinking extra fluids can reduce progesterone’s side effects.

Taking misoprostol and progesterone during pregnancy doesn’t appear to be harmful to a fetus. Studies show that the rate of congenital disabilities (birth defects) after APR is lower than for the general population.

Does Abortion Pill Reversal Mean You Have to Raise Your Child?

No. There are many reasons women change their minds about abortion. Sometimes women decide they want to raise their children, but don’t know how to financially or practically manage it.

If this is your situation, Willowbrook Women’s Center provides no-cost, judgment-free advocates to address your concerns and answer your questions. There are over 2,000 organizations across the U.S. that help women who choose to parent their unexpected pregnancies. We can provide you with a list of local community resources. These resources provide services, tangible resources, and ongoing support so you can parent successfully.

Sometimes women decide they can’t proceed with an abortion knowing they aren’t ready to raise a child. If this describes you, contact Willowbrook Women’s Center for a confidential appointment to talk over your options.  Our compassionate advocates can provide referral choices for you if you would like to pursue learning more about adoption. We are here to come alongside you so you can make a confident decision for your future.