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February 26th, 2009
11:39 AM ET

Did I wait too long to get pregnant?

As a new feature of CNNhealth.com, our team of expert doctors will answer readers’ questions. Here’s a question for Dr. Gupta.

Asked by Molly, Washington

"I am 35 years old and have spent much of my adult life focusing on my career, which I love! But it recently dawned on me that I may have missed my window of opportunity to have a baby naturally. Is that true? How concerned should I be?"

Answer:

Thanks Molly for the question. There are many women in the same position you are. They want to have a family, just not quite yet. And that’s not a bad thing! It's great to hear that you have a career you love and are so passionate about.

Let me first say, that no–you haven't missed your "window of opportunity" to have a baby. Many women in their late 30s, and early 40s get pregnant naturally. It may just take a little longer to conceive compared with women in their 20s. According to the March of Dimes, one in five women have children after age 35.

Of course, waiting doesn't come without risk. As you age the quality of your eggs and your ovaries’ ability to release them declines. As a result, the miscarriage rate for women age 35 to 39 increases to 20 percent. After age 40, it rises to 50 percent. Women over 35 are also at increased risk of developing gestational diabetes, and having a baby with a genetic disorder, such as Down syndrome.

You should begin evaluating your health patterns now, even years before conceiving, and make any necessary lifestyle changes. The basic rules apply: Don't smoke, limit stress, and stay physically active. But it’s also a good idea to meet with your OB-GYN and get a full preconception checkup. He or she will be able to offer tips specific to your body to help you down the road. Also, you may consider taking a daily prenatal vitamin. Even if you don't get pregnant for years, it provides great nutrients including calcium, iron, protein and folic acid. These nutrients are not only good for your body, but help prepare and strengthen the womb for conception. Be sure to choose a prenatal vitamin with at least 1 milligram of folic acid. It is an essential nutrient in the neurological development of a baby.

Molly, best wishes for a healthy life and pregnancy in the years to come.


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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.