How old is too old to have a child?

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When a good friend of mine was 47, she was shocked to discover that she was pregnant with her third child. This woman had been a practicing gynecologist for the past few decades and had seen more than her share of unusual situations. Still, she knew the odds of this happening and was stunned when it happened to her. Despite the risks, she carried through with the pregnancy and is now the mother of a bright, healthy 15-year-old.

Though her story is certainly unusual, it illustrates the fact that every woman’s body is different and that some people can and do conceive later in life. Although it isn’t always easy, it is, in at least some cases, a possibility.

In this day and age when many women are spending longer finding a serious partner and are devoting their younger years to establishing a career, the question of how late we can push back the biological clock has become an ever more pertinent one. If you are attempting to or thinking about having children later in life, here are a few things to consider.

The risk of a miscarriage

Women over the age of 35 generally take longer to conceive. This is a result of the fact that women carry eggs in their bodies their entire lives and they tend to deteriorate somewhat over time. By this point, there are fewer of them and the odds of a faulty one are greater. There’s also a 25 percent risk of a spontaneous miscarriage when trying to carry a pregnancy to term between the ages of 35 and 39. Between the ages of 40 and 44, this risk goes up to 51 percent.

The risk of Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities

This is a common concern among more mature women attempting to become pregnant. However, the statistics aren’t as dire as many expect. At the age of 35, a women has a 1 out of 200 chance of giving birth to a baby with any significant chromosomal abnormalities. The odds of Down syndrome are 1 out of 365. Yes, that is substantially higher than the chances a 25-year-old might face, but it is still relatively low. Framed a different way, the chances of having a completely normal, healthy child are 99.34 percent.

The case for hope

Although women should not necessarily count on being able to give birth later in life, for those who choose to do so the chances are still reasonable. If you are considering having kids after the age of 35, talk to your doctor about what might be possible for you.


1. Mayo Clinic: Healthy Lifestyle – Pregnancy week by week – How old is too old to have a baby? Available from: Accessed on February 15, 2015.

Photo Credit : Alessandro.Rossi Via Flickr

Expecting Expats is the online resource for parents in and around Thailand.

We provide lifestyle and medical content to our visitors, with new content posted daily. Our lifestyle contributors are themselves expat moms who share their experiences and lessons learned through blog articles. We also provide medical content from our partner doctors at Samitivej Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. Articles of interest span from before pregnancy through the toddler years and cover medical, behavioral and cognitive issues.

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