Why It’s Not So Rare to Get Pregnant after 45

Hope for Older Women Trying for Healthy Babies

Current conversations about fertility are failing the millions of women world-wide who are over 40 and trying to get pregnant. When we talk about the best time to conceive or  how much fertility declines with age, we talk past a huge community of women who are hoping to become mothers after 40.

I remember the recurrent sorrow and crazy-making frustration of trying to get pregnant, starting when I was first ready to become a mother—not until I was 41—and lasting until I was lucky enough to conceive my first child at age 45. She was born when I was 46 and she is, I’m incredibly grateful to report, now a healthy, happy 4 and a half year old. I also remember how unhelpful much of the discussion around fertility and age was, during those years when I was trying and failing to get pregnant or to carry a pregnancy to term, a time I’ve written about in my book, The Good Shufu.

Because here’s the thing: Women like these, and like I once was, are not in the position of deciding when to have a baby or whether they should try before reaching “advanced” or “very advanced maternal age.” The ship has sailed on that one. The reality is, they are already in their 40s, and the teeth-aching desire to meet and hold their baby has not declined with age.

Surprisingly, for women over 40 who want to conceive, the most relevant—and most hopeful—information isn’t even found where people usually look during discussions of fertility. Instead of focusing on studies comparing fertility at various ages or surveys of ART successes and failures, we should look to US census data on births and, perhaps paradoxically, to statistics on abortion, menopause, and sterility.

To be clear: I’m not arguing women should wait. I’m not arguing they shouldn’t. I’m saying that if a woman happens to be in her 40s and trying to conceive, she should know there actually is some hope, tempered though it may be. The chances are certainly smaller than when she was 25, and even 35. But that’s immaterial now. And it doesn’t by any stretch mean there is no chance. This point bears stressing and examining in the absence of comparisons with younger women.

Besides having given birth to a healthy baby conceive naturally when I was 45, I’ve also been unusually lucky to have heard from almost 1,000 women, aged 40+ who are trying to conceive or who are already pregnant and who have found me through this blog, then gone to my book’s website to contact me. I love hearing from all of you and am grateful to be privy to some of the uncensored thoughts, concerns, questions, and emotions being shared among this population.

Especially for those women 42 and older who get in touch, I hear frequently that they’ve either heard or just feel they have “no chance,” a “0%” likelihood of becoming mothers with their own eggs. A significant number also tell me they feel ashamed, have been told they’re “crazy” for thinking they might have a shot. These are the women I’m writing this for now. (And you go, ladies, for trying!)

Overlooked Stats Show Hope for Women 40+

Census statistics on live births & medical abortions

https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/vsrr/report002.pdf: According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2016, there were 111,848 births, (1.1% of population) to women 40-44. This covers all births, not just births to women who were trying to conceive, suggesting that if all 40-44 year olds in 2016 tried to conceive every month, the percentage of women in this age group who’d had babies would be considerably higher. To women between 45-54 (with the great majority falling between 45-49), 9,025 babies were born.

Combining these stats with those on abortion in 2015 for the 40-44 age group, (20,962)–the latest age group and last year in which statistics were collected–and then dividing this number by 3 (accounting for expected 33% miscarriage rate in this age group), we could expect to add around 7,000 babies, totaling close to 120,000 births. This number would actually be a low estimate, since many miscarriages occur before scheduled abortion dates.

All together, we could expect between 125,000-130,000 live births in 2016 to women 40-49. Put into context, that’s a population of babies likely greater than the total population of most of our hometowns.

Perhaps most significantly, these statistics hold steady or decline only somewhat when viewing births before egg donation was available in the US (See births 1933-1998 @ https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/natality/mage33tr.pdf.)

Sterility & menopause

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12268772: According to a review of the literature pertaining to declining fertility with age, the likelihood of permanent sterility at age 40 is about 40% and at age 45 is about 80%, meaning one of out every five 45 year olds should be able to become pregnant at some point during their 45th year.

http://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/pregnancy#1: As explained by executive director emeritus of the North American Menopause Society Dr. Marjory Gass, pregnancy even in the mid-to-late 40s is not impossible for most women. “Never assume, ‘Oh, I’m too old to get pregnant,’” Gass has said. “Unless you have gone a year without a period–the technical definition of menopause—pregnancy remains a possibility.”

Birth defects & miscarriage

I get a lot of questions over email and on this blog about whether getting pregnant in the 40s, especially in the mid-40s, guarantees a miscarriage or a child with a genetic abnormality. Many women, myself included, field questions from family members about whether it’s even wise to get pregnant or hope for a positive outcome given the dire statistics on Downs, etc., for older mothers.

When viewed from the perspective of high the risks are compared to pregnancy at 25, the numbers do look grim. But when viewed from the perspective solely of the chances for a healthy baby at various ages throughout the 40s, the numbers are much more hopeful (and again, relevant):

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1071156/: “For women at 42 years of age, more than half of the intended pregnancies (54.5%) resulted in fetal loss…The risk of spontaneous abortion [was] 84.1% by the age of 48 years or older.” So yes, these are scary statistics, and they aren’t great, but they are better than many people fear and assume, especially if we look at them in reverse, from the perspective of a positive outcome rather than negative: a 45% chance of success for a 42-year old to carry a pregnancy to term, and even a 15% chance of success for a 48-year old.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6455611 & https://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/embryology/index.php/Genetic_risk_maternal_age : The estimated rate of all clinically significant cytogenetic abnormalities at age 40 is 15.8 per 1000, meaning we can expect between 98-99% of all babies will be born genetically healthy. For age 45, it’s 53.7 per 1000, or between 94-95% of babies. Even for women giving birth at 49, only 12.5% of babies will carry a genetic abnormality, meaning 87 out of every hundred babies will be born genetically average.

So if you’re out there now and are trying to conceive in your 40s, please know that I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts and hoping you have the same good luck I—and almost 9,000 other women aged 45-49 in the U.S. last year—had. And please know that I and thousands of other women are out there, pulling for you.

Note: For more about trying to get pregnant, you can also see An Honest Take at Getting Pregnant Naturally at 45Getting Through to Getting Pregnant at 45 and On Delivering My First Child at 46, other blog posts I wrote in the hopes of supporting people slogging through infertility, although some of the content from these is reproduced in this post.  Based on requests in the comment section of this blog and through email, I’ve started a new online group, New Mothers at 45 and Up, and I welcome you to join us there. Finally, if you’re still interested in my path to motherhood later in life, the story of how I met and fell in love with my husband and then went through years of IVF and finally got pregnant naturally, is in my book The Good Shufu

149 thoughts on “Why It’s Not So Rare to Get Pregnant after 45

  1. I needed to read this today. Past few days have been a roller coaster and my hope has been wavering. We’ve been TTC since Jan 2017. First go round we had 3 miscarriages & 2 chemical pregnancies…so, we had a great conception rate that first year. Had a uterine fibroid removed last April and we had to wait at least 8 months. We started again as soon as we could on this second round of trying. I found out I was pregnant right before Mother’s Day, got my period, but was still getting positives on home tests, oddly enough. I had so much hope I had a little fighter. Blood tests revealed yesterday that hCG wasn’t doubling. It was very low to begin with and only went up by 1 point in 48 hrs. Needless to say, tears set in. “Chemical pregnancy”. I go in tomorrow for one more blood test to confirm the loss. My birthday is tomorrow, too. 44. Feels like extra salt in the wound with this happening around Mother’s Day and my birthday, which had originally given me a great sense of divine intervention. I had a few questions, given it was odd to have a positive test while on my period, so the doctor felt the need to remind me of miscarriage rates at my age…kinda already know that, definitely no need for the reminder…I think anyone, regardless of age, would have questions if they were pregnant while having a period. I knew the TTC journey would not be an easy one at my age. I never took that fact lightly. All the same, it does get hard to brush these losses off with the reasoning of “well, at least I know things are working ok; just need to find that golden egg.” I only tell the closest to me when I get pregnant, so I have some level of support. My husband, mom, and one of my best friends are wonderful. My brother is also great, even if the well-intentioned question of “are you going to keep trying?” stung in a way he can never understand. The half baked concern from my other best friend is, umm, transparent. I just really sense that she thinks I’m wasting my time. It hurts, so I should probably keep her out of my loop of TTC support going forward. It’s hard enough to stand for this dream at my age, but I think the hardest can be the doubt and judgement from others…the reminders they give you that play into your own fears of it not happening, the am i crazy, the what if my ship has sailed, the what makes me think I could be one of the lucky few. It’s hard having no one in my life that truly understands what this journey is like. So, yes, I really needed to read this post today. Thank you for this jolt of hope. I needed this reminder, to know there are others out there who really get it, to feel not so alone in my journey. Hold tight all of you out there still trying at our age. I hold all of you in my heart. It may not be like others’ journeys, but this is OUR journey. We have the right to have one of our own just like any 20- or 30-something year old. We’ve got this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This article was very inspiring. I recently was told by my gynecologist I have almost no chance of conceiving without some form of fertility treatment at my age (47). While do I understand why she told me this, it pains me to think my chances are slim to none to conceive on my own.

    After reading your article, I do have some hope. Although I understand the reality of what the statistics say for women my age, I want to maintain some glimmer of hope and optimism that I can do this using my own body’s resources. I feel and work hard at being healthy.

    Thank you for this article.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Believe you can do it! Pun intended. Anyhow my grandmother had a natural baby at 47yrs old. I truly believe that some women’s eggs age later than others. Plus most people do not eat healthy or exercise in thier 40s, which affects eggs. I had my eggs frozen in my 30s but even then the doctor said my eggs tested in the range of a 21 yr old woman.


  3. My grandmother had her last child naturally at 47yrs old. And my aunt had her last child naturally at 46yrs old. Both were healthy. They were Foriegners. I believe the American diet of preservatives and freely taking birth control messes with fertility

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always wondered about birth control and fertility. I thought it “fixed” your hormones and rebalanced them. Maybe there is info out there I haven’t come across yet. I’d be interested in any resources people have about the link between birth control and infertility.


  4. I just wanted to let everyone know there is hope. I had my 8th baby conceived naturally at 44 years old. I used systemic enzymes (Wobenzym) so I wouldn’t miscarry. I will be 46 soon and still breastfeeding.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you with all of my hear for writing this intelligent and beautiful article! Hugs forever! I’m 45 and am ttc and I’ve had 6 children and four miscarriages these last 6 months but I’m not giving up as instantly get pregnant still!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I had my second child at 44 (first at 35). I had two miscarriages the prior year and got immediately pregnant with my daughter after the second one. The only thing I did was drink Collagen Peptides daily and take prenatal vitamins. It was a very easy pregnancy with no complications. She is now a very healthy and active 7 month old. So it is definitely possible.


  7. I conceived naturally and gave birth to my first child at age 46. I then fell pregnant again naturally at age 48 but unfortunately miscarried about 5 weeks into the pregnancy. My partner and I have been trying secretly ever since with no luck until today. In less than 3 months I turn 50 and got a positive pregnancy test today. I’m aware that there are many hurdles to get through from here but am taking it one step at a time. I’m just so excited that I was able to get pregnant and have an opportunity, although slim, to add another wonderful miracle to our family.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I conceived naturally at age 41 after 2 years of trying and gave birth to a healthy baby boy a week before my 42nd birthday. I am currently 17 weeks pregnant (we were not really trying to get pregnant again, but we’re not using birth control) and will be 44 when this 2nd baby is born. I was told by several fertility doctors that my odds of getting pregnant the first time around were very low, and that I wasn’t even a candidate for IVF because of my AMH and FSH results. I did take CoQ10 when trying to get pregnant the first time (I did nothing this timeline). Genetic testing indicates this baby is healthy and right on track. While this 2nd pregnancy has been much more exhausting than the first, we’re thrilled to be able to add to our family.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I just came across this and I needed to read something positive. I am turning 43 in a few days and I just suffered a pregnancy loss at 13 weeks a week ago. I wasn’t trying to get pregnant. I thought my chance had gone to have children because I was single. I was told 3 years ago that my chances were virtually non-existent to have a child naturally. So, I didn’t think about birth control with my new boyfriend. I conceived the very first time we had sex. I was totally shocked that after all this time, I fell pregnant spontaneously at 42. We both were very happy and everything changed — we excitedly began planning for the change in our lives. Everything was going great. Every scan was awesome. Our baby was measuring ahead and always had a strong heartbeat. She passed all the genetic tests. Then, I started bleeding. I went in to the doctor every damn day and they always reassured me. The day I lost her, I woke up to horrendous back pain and contractions. I raced to the doctor and they AGAIN told me everything was FINE because my baby had such a strong heartbeat. Then, I started bleeding heavily and they rushed me to do an ultrasound and we could all see her coming out of my cervix. The day before everything had measuring perfectly. And then I lost her — seconds after hearing her precious heartbeat. I’m completely and utterly shattered. We had just announced the pregnancy after the 12-week scan. I feel so lost. I don’t know why God would give me this miracle and take it away. I have suffered a lot of tragedy and hardship in my life and this feels unbearable. I can see no good in this at all. And now I am panicking that I won’t be able to get pregnant again at 43. That our baby girl was my only chance. This gives me some hope because everything out there is so discouraging. The only thing I can be thankful for now is a good partner who is sticking with me through this and committed to try again.


  10. I live in the Caribbean and became a Mom for the second time at age 47 I had quadruplets – identical twin girls with another girl and a boy. I’m 51 and pregnant with multiples again. It looks like quints this time but another might be hiding. I had my first baby at 34. I conceived all my babies naturally. I’m happy for your blog. I loved it. A lot of people scoffed at me and my fiance when we revealed we wanted to have kids after marriage. I was 45 and he was 40. People said it was impossible but we read online that it wasn’t so we went for it and now we’ll have so many! Like I read online: if you haven’t hit menopause as yet pregnancy is still a possibility.


  11. Wow….I’ve been following this since we starting trying to conceive last nov, after being told I was to old for IVF at 44 we were given clomid. We did 10 cycles holding our breathe to no avail ( although personally I didn’t feel stressed but working 12hr days straight for 3 months with 3 kids already, my body may have thought different ) ……. but we went on holidays we decided to take a break from clomid and cycle watching to drink wine, relax by the beach and regroup as a modern day family, and that we did. 24 bottles of wine in 10 days + beach side daily….. this morning a pregnancy test came up positive…. holy freaking wow!!!!!! Tomorrow we will be 6 weeks in…. there is hope ladies xx thankyou Tracy for keeping us all informed of the possibilities of being an older mum and putting the positives forward.


  12. I fell pregnant much to my suprise naturally at 45. I had five boys( my last l had at 41) and thought that was it. Then after four years fell pregnant with a GIRL! I am currently 25 weeks pregnant and all going well so it definitely is possible.


  13. This article and the posts have given me hope. I’m only starting on my journey at age 46. Apparently my grandmother had my uncle at 46 and my aunt at 48 so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. I wonder why there is so little about women’s successful pregnancies in their forties and late forties? It wasn’t so long ago that contraception did not exist. Were records not kept in the past of birth rates and ages of mothers? I wish there were more chat rooms and blogs about pregnancy in the forties so many women would benefit from them. If you could signpost me to other women chatting online I’d really appreciate it. Thank you for sharing x


  14. I’m 49 years old in less than a week . I discovered I’m pregnant (naturally conceived) ! I must be about 6 weeks pregnant . Frantically scrolling the internet for more info about the risks . I thought I was menopausal and now I’m in shock . Will need to take this per day and see how it goes . Some positive comments on this blog is proving inspiring and helpful to give courage in this mad time of being unexpectedly pregnant at 49! I’ve got an 11 year old daughter if she finds out ….ooh la la.. not sure how to take all this ? A gift from god?


    1. Huge congratulations, Saskia! Please feel free to come back and update us as you take things day-to-day. Keeping everything crossed for you that your pregnancy progresses well. And thanks so much for sharing your good news here. I pointed to your comment on the Facebook group for new mothers at 45+, which I started after requests from readers of this blog, and some of the women there wanted me to let you know that they are rooting for you too. Sending you and yours all the best wishes.



  15. Thank you for this blog! I am wanting so badly to conceive as well, and will be 49 next week. Hoping for natural but open to options. I may be pregnant as we speak–please send good thoughts! Yay to the sisterhood of older moms.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Hi I’m 44 soon to be 45 and my wanting to be a mom instinct did not kick in until age 42 yrs I tried naturally then gave up I feel sick, desperate and very depressed I cannot afford IVF and don’t know what to do and just cry all the time, I have PCOS what do you all recommend for me to ovulate and to try again I pray to God for a miracle.


    1. Hi Mary,

      I’m so sorry to hear of your struggle and your pain. I wish I had a better answer about how I managed to get pregnant at 45 and deliver a healthy first child at 46, but to be honest I don’t really know how it happened, besides just that we got really lucky. I don’t know much about PCOS, since I didn’t have that condition, although I did have irregular ovulation. I write more about all of this here, in case it’s helpful: https://thegoodshufu.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/how-i-got-pregnant-naturally-at-45/

      Either way, please know that I will be keeping you in my thoughts and wishing all the best luck in the world for you.

      With endless hope for you in your struggle,



  17. thank you so much for sharing your experience!! it gives me so much hope!! I am 45 have a 11 yrs old, praying that i still can conceive naturally! do you have any suggestion on what vitamins I should take to boot up the chance, and eggs quality? thank you so much!


    1. Hi carren. Thanks for leaving your comment. I’m glad it gives you hope! I wish I had a better sense of what enabled me to get pregnant naturally at 45 and give birth to a healthy first child at 46, but I don’t–beyond just luck. I write a bit more about this here, if it helps: https://thegoodshufu.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/how-i-got-pregnant-naturally-at-45/ . Either way, I’ll be keeping you in my thoughts and wishing you all the luck in the world!

      With my very best wishes,



  18. What a wonderful blog post. I’m inspired by the many stories but also the maturity at which we older mothers may approach the challenges of late pregnancy. I would just like to add that in the 1920’s and 30’s, women typically had larger families and the average age of a last pregnancy was mid forties – of course many were a little older. I believe modern medicine and health advice is largely influenced by the IVF industry. Giving up on natural health + a little perseverance for many follows the big pharma sales pitch and too many articles really lead to disappointment. Thanks for the honest and alternative view.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Thank you so very much for this post, you are changing a lot of people’s lives by making people understand they don’t need to be embarrassed by their faith in conceiving.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. A lovely positive read in a world where it seems easy to read up on, and gets statistics about later fertility that is is far from positive. MIndset miust play such a part in all this. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. This is so encouraging, my hubby and I have been ttc since 2011, we have had 1 miscarriage and (we believe) several chemical pregnancies. We did one round of ICSI, with no luck. We are both 48 and still hopeful and praying. It’s easy to feed into the doubts that society places on us being over 40. It’s hard to explain to people how it hurts to grieve something you never had. But this is encouraging. I am 18 days late and a negative test result, but maybe my irregular cycle is throwing it all off. Hopeful in God’s timing and thankful for people like you who offer encouraging words and stories💜


  22. I am so glad that I found these comments. Very encouraging! I have an unique situation I believe. I am 45 years old, and my husband had a vasectomy reversal 4 years ago. We have had a change of heart and now planning a vasectomy reversal. 95% success rate within 3 months of reversal so that’s encouraging. I had a consultation with my obgyn. He has given me the green light on trying to conceive. He believes I have a good chance. I’m very healthy, don’t drink or smoke ever, normal weight, 3 normal pregnancies and child births, and no miscarriages. My last pregnancy was at age 35 and baby boy was conceived in one single time of unprotected sex with my husband. The really good news is that my AMH is 1.45 and my FSH is 4, so my labs are normal for fertility. My cycle is extremely regular. I am ready to go for it, but I’m still 45 years old! I am still concerned about risk of miscarriage or birth defects. I think we really let society shape how we feel about pregnancy over 40. Here’s a thought: perhaps the statistics aren’t great for pregnancy over 40 because so many people just automatically assume that they aren’t supposed to TTC after 40 just because it’s not “socially acceptable.” Perhaps those over 40 actually have a much better chance of getting pregnant than we actually think. Just think if it became “socially acceptable” for women over 40 to conceive then many more women over 40 would be trying to conceive. That would lead to many more pregnancies in this age range therefore it would raise the statistics! My gut tells me to follow my heart and intuition. My heart tells me that I will get pregnant. My heart tells me that I may also miscarry at least once. But, my heart also tells me that I will give birth to a healthy baby. Follow your heart!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s