The Truth About Getting Pregnant Over 40
What to expect when you’re expecting when the miracle doesn’t happen
The age at which a woman becomes unable to conceive varies from person to person. We’re born with a finite number of eggs (about 200,000), and as the quantity diminishes every month, so too does the quality. They break down and start looking old, just like the soft skin around our eyes. We ovulate about 500 good eggs over the course of our reproductive lives (unless we’re not ovulating) and the rest die naturally. When we run out of eggs, we stop menstruating and enter menopause. (Here's a great explanation that I found online.)
The joy of motherhood
I’ve wanted to get pregnant a second time since my daughter was about a year old (and I was 42). I adore her and have so much fun being a mom. Her baby years flew by in a blur and I desperately want to live them again. I’ve made so many parenting blunders and I want a chance to try new ideas. I had normal new-parent frustrations and I want the chance to show myself and everyone else what a pro I am now.
But I didn’t start trying right away, mostly due to financial fears. We conceived our daughter when I was 40 after only three or four months of trying the old fashioned way. My husband’s grandmother conceived his mom at age 45. I thought that when I wanted to get pregnant, I would. I was wrong.
Trying to conceive in my 40s
When I was about 42 1/2 I talked to my husband about having a second child. “Let’s just try till my birthday,” I said.
Our attempts to conceive were somewhat half-hearted. My husband, bless his heart, is ready, willing and able to give it the old college try any time I give the green light (even though he’s also perfectly content to raise just our one beautiful child). The problem was me. My libido evaporated after the birth of our daughter, and it became hard for me to instigate intimacy. Gone are the newlywed days of sex ten times a week – the exciting way we conceived our daughter. Four years later, I still put her to bed each night and usually fall asleep doing so. When I move to our bed a couple of hours later, the desire for sex is almost always trumped by the desire to get back to sleep. Armed with ovulation tests, though, I tracked my cycle and did my best to ensure we at least had a couple of sessions of well-timed intercourse every time I saw the LH surge. I was only successful about half the time.
When my birthday came, there was no question we’d keep trying. Because of the lack of sex drive, I felt that I hadn’t given it a fair effort. I pushed off the deadline to New Year’s and renewed my dedication to achieving the goal.
The New Year came and went, and last June I turned 44, still trying. Not ready to give up on the dream, I changed my mind about leaving it to fate, finally talking to a doctor to find out if there was anything I could do to improve my chances of conceiving.
My OB-GYN ran a few blood tests and ordered a hysterosalpingogram. The blood tests check hormone levels and show how many eggs are in the ovaries. Not the number, but what they call the ovarian reserve. The hysterosalpingogram shows whether the path from the uterus through the fallopian tubes to the ovaries is clear, both for the sperm to meet the egg and for the egg to travel and implant. After reviewing my results, the doctor said my reserves might be low and one of my fallopian tubes might be blocked. I clung to those maybes. He said there was nothing to indicate I couldn’t get pregnant but if I wanted any help it was time to talk to a fertility specialist. At 44 years 8 months old I told my husband I had taken it as far as I wanted to, that if we couldn’t do it on our own it just wasn’t meant to be; that we couldn’t afford fertility treatments anyway; that I was afraid of running the risk of conceiving multiples. I was ready to start giving away all the baby gear (and did). I was done trying.
I made the appointment with a fertility specialist two days later. I decided in advance, prior to discussing options with an expert, that I wanted to try intrauterine insemination. That’s where they take dad’s sperm, optimize it and shoot it straight to where it can fertilize an egg. Since one fallopian tube was blocked, my husband and I figured we’d give it two rounds to ensure that we had a shot at an egg coming down the right tube.