How Late Is Too Late To Get Pregnant?

By Lissa Rankin, MD

When it comes to this stuff, I’ve learned to keep a very open mind.  As we age, fertility wanes.  Because there’s no way to really know whether you’re fertile until you try, there’s no easy way to predict when it might be too late.  So how late is too late to get pregnant? What about getting pregnant after 40? Well, it depends. Technically, it’s too late to conceive spontaneously once you hit menopause. But fertility usually drops off long before menopause. By the age of 45, 87-99% of women are infertile.[i][ii] After that, it may still be possible to conceive, but most likely you will need donor eggs implanted via in vitro fertilization (IVF).

One notable exception to the rule that you can’t conceive after menopause comes to mind.  My patient Maddy, who was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure (early menopause) in her twenties, was told she could never get pregnant.  She never menstruated, and all of her blood tests indicated that she was in menopause.  She was given birth control pills as hormone replacement, but, because she wasn’t using them as birth control, she was careless about taking them every day.

One day, Maddy, who is arguably the buffest woman I have ever met, came to see me complaining that her waistline was widening, and her pants didn’t quite fit. She had asked her husband, who happens to be an OB/GYN, whether she looked fat. Her husband (wise man) quickly answered, “Of course not, dear.”

Maddy showed up at my office, assuming she had a fibroid tumor in her uterus.

Long story short, we scanned Maddy’s uterus and found a fetus growing inside. I said, “Congratulations, Maddy! Your fibroid is a boy!”

Maddy’s story is one of many, but don’t let that lull you into thinking you can just sit around on your laurels if you’re hoping to become a mother. I absolutely believe that we make better parents by waiting until we’re emotionally ready to be parents. But I hate to break it to you- biologically speaking, the sooner the better.

I don’t mean to be a buzz kill to all you women out there focusing on your careers, waiting for the right partner, or sitting on the fertility fence like I did. But I think it’s empowering to be informed so you can choose the life you want to live, rather than seeing yourself as a victim of fate or circumstance.  It’s your life. If you are one of those women who must be a mother of a child created from your own genes, don’t wait. Recognize the importance of your dream and make it a priority. Remember, there’s no perfect time to take a leap of faith. That’s why they call it a leap of faith. Believe.

[i] TIETZE, C. Reproductive span and rate of reproduction among Hutterite women. Fertil Steril 1957; 8:89.
[ii] Laufer, N, Simon, A, Samueloff, A, et al. Successful spontaneous pregnancies in women older than 45 years. Fertil Steril 2004; 81:1328.

Lissa Rankin MD is the author of the book, What’s Up Down There, and the founder of . To enter our contest for a copy of Lissa book (courtesy of, comment below on some question you have about…you know, down there!)

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