Whether you planned all along to have a baby after 40 or it just happened to shake out that way, it's no secret you could be facing an uphill battle. No doubt you've heard all sorts of statistics about fertility after 35, and the facts can't be denied -- it's tougher to get pregnant when you're older, and complications are more common.
But there are advantages to getting pregnant after 40, too. It's likely that a woman has made her way up the career ladder and is in a good position financially, for example, and that kind of security is important to bringing up a child.
We can't deny the realities of a becoming a mom later in life, but being well-informed is your first step on the road the motherhood. Maybe your path will be a little rockier than someone else's. Maybe you'll get very lucky. Either way, we have some tips to get you on your way.
5: Find a Great Doctor
An analysis of more than 100 studies showed that good doctor-patient communication is tied to patients sticking to treatment [source: Zolnierek and DiMatteo]. While that might sound like a "duh" statistic, it underscores the importance of finding a physician with whom you feel comfortable having a conversation. Sorry, Dr. House.
Besides a great support system of friends, family and a partner, there's one more person you need in your life in preparation for a baby: a great doctor.
A good OB/GYN or reproductive endocrinologist (an OB/GYN who's also certified in infertility) isn't only knowledgeable; he or she should also be a good listener who is attentive to your worries.
Look for a practice where it's easy to get hold of a doctor when you need to talk or make an appointment. In case of an urgent concern, you should have the security of knowing you can see or talk to a health care professional within a reasonable period of time.
Someone who's always late, makes you feel stupid for asking questions and doesn't return your calls? Dump 'em like a bad boyfriend.
4: Deal with Existing Health Problems
Get your health thoroughly checked out before you start trying to conceive, even if you feel fine. A chlamydia infection may have no symptoms, for example, but it can lead to pregnancy complications [source: American Pregnancy Association]. Uncontrolled thyroid disease can lead to congestive heart failure, pre-eclampsia, premature birth, low birth weight, or even miscarriage or stillbirth [source: National Endocrine and Metabolic Diseases Information Service].
That isn't to say that women with hyper- or hypothyroidism can't have healthy pregnancy -- they can and do. It just means that extra care needs to be taken.
The same goes for women with diabetes. Poor blood sugar control, even in the very early weeks of pregnancy, ups the risk for birth defects and miscarriage [source: American Diabetes Association]. It's important to get your levels in your target range months before you try for a baby.
Go in for a full workup from your trusted doctor so you can both come up with a plan for getting in the best health.
3: Revise Your Routine
And while you're at your doctor appointment, why not discuss all the bad habits you'd like to quit? Smoking, getting drunk, doing drugs -- if those are your extracurriculars, they have to go. Subsisting on five hours of sleep and a steady diet of stress and takeout won't fly, either.
Preparing your body for a baby is like getting a nursery ready. You listen to the wisdom of others, remove any possible dangers and make it as inviting as possible to a new little human.
Toss plenty of colorful produce in your grocery cart along with some lean protein, whole grains and dairy. Add some more folic acid and calcium to your diet and get more exercise if you spend a lot more time in an office than outside [source: American Pregnancy Association]. A few yoga classes or 30 minutes of walking, three times a week, is a great start. So is an earlier bedtime.
2: Invite Your Partner to Join You
Of course, not every couple is a traditional one, and families are made many different ways. If you don't have to worry about a male partner's fertility, ask a female partner, friend or family member to join you in your healthy lifestyle changes.
Even though most advice on preconception health focuses on women, we all know it takes two to make a baby. Male fertility can be affected by several factors, such as medications. Some drugs used for ulcers and gastrointestinal issues, for instance, can disturb sperm production. Marijuana lowers sperm quality, and excessive heat reduces sperm quantity, so no hot tub to get the romance going [source: American Pregnancy Association].
Plus, it's hard enough to give up drinking, smoking and Cheetos (well, for some of us). It's even harder when your partner hasn't. We may know less about how diet and exercise affect male fertility, but we do know it's healthy for everyone -- so see if your own personal cheerleader might like to take a walk before sitting down for another episode of "Breaking Bad."
1: Consider Donor Eggs
Baby girls are born with about a million eggs in their ovaries. Throughout a woman's lifetime, only about 300 to 400 of them will be ovulated [source: MedicineNet].
For most women, getting pregnant after 40 is tough -- tougher than it seems from the outside. Sure, some women conceive naturally (about 10 percent at age 40, less than 1 percent at 45), but most do not [source: Neporent]. And even for women who use assisted reproductive technology (ART), the chances of conception are small when using their own eggs. One large study showed that, of women 44-and-up using IVF and their own eggs, only about 4 percent got pregnant, and 2 percent carried to term [source: Neporent].
With donor eggs, the chances are much better. Despite the social stigma that seems to be attached to the idea of donor eggs and surrogates, there's a very good chance you know someone who's used donor eggs and/or a gestational carrier. Most people simply don't talk about it.
In recent years, world-famous actresses Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker have publicly discussed their decision to use a gestational carrier to have their children, so perhaps the tide is turning when it comes to stigma about surrogacy. So far, however, no one has come out to talk about their donor egg experience, despite the fact that in 2009 in the United States alone, around 9,500 donor egg cycles took place [source: Center for Human Reproduction].