Being pregnant after 40
If you’re over 40 years of age and you’re having a baby, there’s plenty to look forward to. There is also a lot to think about.
Some of the benefits of being an older mother might be:
- knowing yourself better than you did when you were younger
- having more life experience
You are also more likely to already have a healthy diet.
Mothers over 40 are less likely to punish and scold their children.
Children of older mothers are also less likely to have:
- behavioural difficulties
- social difficulties
- emotional difficulties
Most people over 40 have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. But there are some things you need to think about. You’ll want to be sure to get good antenatal care.
What is antenatal care?
Antenatal care is the care you get while you’re pregnant. It’s an important way to keep yourself and your baby healthy.
Antenatal tests are an important part of your care. Different types of tests are used to check your and your baby’s health. These include blood tests, urine tests and ultrasound scans.
Seeing a doctor or midwife regularly lets them check both your health and your baby’s health.
Your doctor or midwife can also:
- provide you with advice
- answer your questions
- deal with any fears you may have
- help you to prepare for the birth
How is antenatal care different for mothers aged over 40?
Good antenatal care is important for both you and your baby. Your antenatal care is the same as that for younger people.
What pregnancy complications happen in mothers aged over 40?
There are a few pregnancy complications that are more common in people over 40.
Pregnant people over 40 years are more likely to:
- have high blood pressure or gestational diabetes
- have twins or even triplets
- go into premature labour
- have placenta praevia, in which the placenta develops in the wrong part of the uterus
- have a miscarriage
People over 40 years are also more likely to experience heartburn when they are pregnant. This risk is likely to increase if you:
- had heartburn before you got pregnant
- put on a lot of weight during pregnancy
Your doctor or healthcare professional will give you advice on lifestyle changes you can make.
Your doctor will probably organise a blood test to check your rubella immunity. This is because rubella immunity decreases as you get older.
If you are not immune to rubella, your doctor will recommend that you avoid people with symptoms of rubella. They will also organise for you to vaccinated against rubella once you have had this baby.
Are there other tests or investigations I should have?
Routine antenatal tests for genetic conditions are offered to all pregnant people. However, chromosomal conditions are more common in babies of people aged 40 years or older.
- Down syndrome (trisomy 21)
- Edwards syndrome (trisomy 18)
- Patau syndrome (trisomy 13)
Prenatal screening tests assess the risk of your baby having one of these conditions.
These screening tests are tests you can choose to have. None of them are compulsory — they're a personal choice. It’s worth talking to your doctor or midwife to help you decide.
If the screening tests show that the risk of your baby having a chromosomal disorder is high, you can have a diagnostic test. These include:
You can also arrange to have genetic counselling with a specialist counsellor. They will discuss with you what might happen with your baby, and how you might handle the situation.
Resources and support
For more information and advice, call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436. You can speak to a maternal child health nurse for advice and support.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: July 2022