Is 46 Too Old to Have a Baby?

Updated on November 13, 2012
P.R. asks from Akron, OH
35 answers

My best friend from growing up called in a panic as she is pregant at age 46. Not far along and she's obviously shocked. She already had thought she was hitting menopause... She has two other children who are 7 and 9 so there would be a big age gap, nevermind her age. Her husband is pushing 50. They are ok financially but not in great shape and most of the burden will be on her as she has the much more solid job, earns more money and of course the mother always seems to have more responsibility. At her age, the risk of miscarriage is fairly high so maybe this will be a moot point but what would you do? The risks for a healthy baby are not horrible but also not great. Age of father contributes to the incidence of maybe autism and definitely schyzophrenia, the latter is very prevalent in her husband's family and another family member of his is bipolar. Risk of mental illness in this family seem very very high so it's not an average situation. They actually didn't know how high the risks were when they had their 1st two children. In addition, her deliveries were very very difficult and a 3rd birth likely means a C section hysterectomy. Her eggs also likley aren't all that healthy given her age. Risk of a premature birth also seem high. She's not anti abortion but still wonders. She also worries though that the strain will be too much for her marriage. It's already not the greatest and she thinks the stress of a baby when also trying to be a good mother to her older children and work full time will be too much. Her husband is ok but I remember for years the fights they'd have when her kids were young and she'd call crying bc he didn't help that much. I was sure they'd get a divorce. Then she wonders if they make it through the baby years, will this child also be mentally ill? Any words of wisdom I can pass along? Would you have a baby this old and with such a big gap that the child will grow up almost an only child? She worries the child will almost be embarrassed at such old parents vs his/her friends. And she wasn't a young mother to begin with. This just seems really really old. I personally did have an abortion and have never regretted it. I had age on my side but wasn't married though so a different equation here. I do think she will be very unhappy if she has the child though - love him/her of course but stressed and kind of bitter. Her husband will be about 70 when this child is 20 and he is not particularly healthy himself already.

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So What Happened?

oh - she also said, not expecting this, she's been drinking some alcohol, taking ibuprophen for headaches a lot and some OTC sleepaids. That worries her.

I think her husband isn't sure yet. He was ok with more kids years ago but now feels too old too. As well, she said he is very worried about the mental illness factor after seeing what it's done to his family. He doesn't want the child going through it either or himself or his born children but it's not a 100% chance it'd happen. If it could be determined ahead of tiem, he would definitely want to terminate the pregnancy.

Jsut looked and risk of some kind of genetic issue including but not limited to Downes is 6%, not 2%. 94% chance no problem though this doesn't include the risk of schyzophrenia and/or bipolar. GIven his family history, schyzophrenia seems to be a big risk.

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answers from Honolulu on

You were very detailed about the woman's history/family/husband etc. about their life.
Gosh, lots on their plate to "worry" about.
Who knows.
Things like this are not predictable.

All I know is, I have a friend that had her 2nd child at 46 years old.
It was a normal pregnancy, normal birth, her child was born totally normal and healthy and there were no complications. At all.
Her child is now like 7 years old. And she and her Husband are fine parents. And her children are fine and loved, children.
They are a close family. And it has never been a problem.
Their marriage is and has always been stable, however. And their careers.

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answers from Kansas City on

You don't know if the baby will have any problems, mental or physical, and you don't know if she will carry the baby to term, if it will be born C-Section or not, if they will fight again, or anything at all really. I have a friend who had her last at 42 and she's now helping with tons of grandchildren and doing just great. I babysat grandchildren, one full time near age 60 and now babysit occasionally with them and it makes me feel younger. I know I'm not taking care of them full time like a mother but being around them makes me feel younger and keeps me busy and active so unless there is a major health issue that she'll feel worse of unable she should feel great with a baby. The only option if it was myself would be to have the baby and see what they are blessed with. She should go a day at a time. And shame on any child who is embarrassed by his parents no matter what age they are.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

Yikes, I am 46 and it is too old for me. I have a bit different perspective though: my daughter is 19 and in her second year of college, I work in prenatal genetic testing, I am divorced and so I have done everything I can on this planet to keep my daughter an oly child.

Maybe I am selfish but I am seriously enjoying life way too much to start over at this point. I love my job, traveling and having an adut daughter.

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answers from Boca Raton on

I had my FIRST child at 47!! Easy pregnancy, c-sec, healthy baby that is now almost 4.

I am exhausted! But the love & laughter my child brings me every day is worth every extra pound, every shade darker the circles under my eyes get and every ugly word I call my husband under my breath!

Being a "Mature Mom" is great!

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answers from Chicago on

My younger brother was born to my mom when she was 35, and my dad was 34. He has schizophrenia, but I can't imagine not having him in my life. Mental illness doesn't make someone less of a person or less worthy of having a life. It is a challenge, but it is treatable, and I love my brother with my whole heart. My brother has a heart of pure gold and would do anything for anyone.

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answers from Denver on

Today there is so much advanced medicine it seems selfish to not have baby. Everyone has a choice, a choice to use birth control for instance. Abortion seems very, very selfish. My third child was unplanned and birth control failed. I kept her even after others suggested abortion.

Sorry if I offend anyone, my stance is life is life no matter the state. Best wishes to your friend.

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answers from Grand Forks on

Forty-six is not too old to have a baby! Most people are much more prepared to have a baby at 46 then they would have been at 26, or even 36. My mother was 46 (and dad 52) when I was born, and my siblings were 14 and 16 years older than I was. It wasn't that common in 1970, but today most women around here don't start having kids until they are 35, and lots are having them into their late 40's. Anyway, I had the best of all worlds. I was sort of an only child so I received lots of attention, but I had older siblings who doted on me. I was never "embarrassed" by my parents age. I figured my parents were much wiser than all of my friends parents:) My parents were also much more financially stable than many of the younger parents of my friends. It sounds as though you friend has quite a few issues that might make this pregnancy difficult, but age seems to be the least of her worries.

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answers from Chicago on

Its not too old at all. Tell her she can take the maternit21 test at 11 weeks. It is diagnostic. It will even tell her the sex.

I'm 40 and having my third. I don't think of this as old at all. In fact, I know lots of 44,45, and even one 48 year olds that had babies. Perfectly healthy babies. Yes, it's more exhausting, but her older kids are old enough to help out. They will love their sibling and this baby will be a blessing, if they let it be.

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answers from New York on

Umm, I must humbly disagree with "there's nothing your friend can do now." We all know what she can do. If I were her, I would probably lean that way. But, this is obviously an intensely personal and difficult decision. As her friend, just give her love and support whichever way she decides to go.

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answers from Hartford on

Wow, almost everything that could possibly be found to be "wrong" with this pregnancy has been thrown into the mix.

Advanced maternal age.
More advanced paternal age.
History of mental illness in the family.
Moderate age gap between siblings.
Poor finances.
Baby years affected marriage poorly before.
Unstable marriage.
Worries about Autism.
Worries about schizophrenia.
Worries about Bi-Polar.
Very difficult previous pregnancies.
Likelihood of c-section AND radical hysterectomy.
Assumed "unhealthy eggs" due to advanced maternal age.
High risk of premature birth.
Previous pregnancies were a huge strain on marriage; worried this one will be too.
The word "abortion" was thrown around a few times, but neither parent seems to want it unless they could see into the future and whether or not the child would be a burden with a mental illness, Autism, or Down Syndrome.

Did I get everything? Because that was long and confusing.

Your "friend" and her husband can welcome a baby no matter their situation if they're committed to the pregnancy, the baby, and their family. They fake it 'til they make it. Life is full of challenges every single day and we get through them or else we... what... curl up in a corner and shrivel up and die? Give up? Choose to go through life looking at everything as negatively as possible?

What your friend needs is a good high risk obstetrician. They can talk to her about the OTC meds she's taken and the drinks that she's had, none of which have likely affected the baby as long as she has abstained since she found out about the pregnancy.

She also needs a counselor/therapist/psychiatrist to help her through the pregnancy and with any stressful issues that may arise. It's possible that she suffered from pregnancy depression before and/or post partum depression and never had either treated, so this would be a good time to get a head start on treatment and learning coping skills for the stress.

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answers from Seattle on

For me, this is a terribly difficult question to answer.

First, I find that when I'm put in a real situation, I usually make choices that are different than what I imagined, given a hypothetical. I am a few decades from being your friends age and while I am very glad I'll have adult children by then, I cannot predict how I would feel if I were to become pregnant at that time.

Secondly, I grew up with a papa who was 49 when I was born. I love my father from the moon and back. He is 77 this year and his health is failing. I am only 27 years old, and my children are both 5 and under. Should I have waited to have my children, they would likely not know or remember him. Growing up, it was difficult having a parent who was so much my senior. I think it would have been very, very difficult, if my mom was the same age as him.

On the other hand, we cannot see the future. I am not guaranteed health or old age, just because my children were born when I was in my early twenties. I could just as easily develop an illness or have a fluke accident, as could a parent years older than me.

I think that when it comes to family and reproductive choices, only we know what is right for us. When my friends have been questioning a possible pregnancy, I try to let them know that I will support them no matter what they find is right for them.

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answers from New York on

No not too old. congratulations!,,

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answers from Las Vegas on

While I certainly don't want any more children and I am younger than your friend, I would embrace the child and raise him or her the best I could.

I have a 29 YO daughter and a 7 YO daughter. I love them both the same. The difference is, I am more financially set with the younger one. The younger one is in private school while the older one went to public school. The younger one is in two sports while the older one was in one. They both kept busy just about every day of the week with school and sports. So my finances had no bearing on my love for either one of them.

At the same time, I have twin sisters with schizophrenia. That didn't stop any other family member from having a family. You have to deal with life as it comes.

So you ask for words of wisdom. May I first suggest to you that your post appears to be heavily weighted with negative aspects of the pregnancy. You fail to mention, children bring out the best in people. The baby could be beautiful, healthy, smart, and fun. What IF she terminates and throws out a gem of a human being.

If you think she will be unhappy if she has this child, how happy do you think she will be with a termination. People get over things like that, but at the same time, they hang in there and manage with what is put before them.

Last, I have noticed the majority of parents at my daughter's school are a little older. They all appear to be very proud and happy parents. I don't see anyone leaning on the post moping about how old they are and raising that child running to them across the field.

Wishing you and your friend the best.

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answers from Seattle on

My best friend from childhood was the GoldenYearsSurprise. I forget how old her birthmum was (almost 20 years older than your friend), a grandmother, and then great gramma. No medical miracle. Moms do have babies in their 50s & 60s. But definitely a surprise.

They chose to adopt her out.

Around Seattle, though, MOST parents START their families in the early 40's. 46 is pretty average for a 2nd or 3rd child, and often #1.

Can't say what I would do, as Im not there yet, I have no idea.

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answers from Boston on

It kind of already sound like she has already knows the answer. Everything that you have listed is negative and nothing is positive.

I think if she wants to have the baby she isn't too old. Yes there are health risks associated with older women having babies but a dear friend of mine just had her first at 41 and consering going for a second. I feel for your friend as I am sure this is going to be a very tough decision. What does her husband want her to do?

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answers from Detroit on

I personally would go through with it. I would have a baby at 60 if there were NO added possible complications. But of course that's not reality.

I also made the decision that age 35 is my limit for some of the health reasons mentioned, given we have plenty of healthy children already.
I know going from just age 25 to 30 made pregnancy THAT much harder. I can't imagine 46. I hope she does OK!

As for age gaps, I'd eagerly adopt and love a child (maybe a teen by then!) into my 80's. I have NO problem with age gaps or what other siblings might think. Family is a blessing.

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answers from San Diego on

I couldn't do it but, that's not to say she can't.

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answers from Chicago on

This would be too old for me. I have a friend now who will be 44 when her baby is born in January. When the baby arrives, she will have a newborn and a 27 year old. The thought of being 50 with a child in kindergarten is something I simply can't fathom. While it is possible, it is a personal choice. She and her husband need to be on the same page. Any pregnancy can have risks - some foreseen others a surprise. In this case the risks are greater because of her age. You really can't predict this outcome. The child will be embarrassed because their parents will be mistaken for grandparents. That's the least of their concerns at this point.

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answers from Dallas on

Since I'm almost her age, I don't consider it "really, really old." If I were her, I'd get a an OB who specializes in high-risk pregnancies and ask about specific risks and facts for my particular situation. I would all testing available. Unless the OB indicated that my own life would be in jeopardy, abortion would not be an option.

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answers from Charlotte on

I'd worry more about the risk of Down's, to be honest. (Oh, I just saw your SWH about Down's - I don't really know the stats, but they always want to check for Down's after 35... with schizophrenia in the family, that's just scary!)

Bless her heart, I'd hate to be in her shoes, but that's just me. I chose not to try for a girl because I didn't want to be 40 and pregnant. I don't know how I would have done it.

Just support whatever decision she makes as her friend. No judgment. Whatever decision she makes will be hard.


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answers from Houston on

I have a good friend that is 40 and her husband is 57 and they planned a third child and nobody seems worried ;) I mean, he is gonna be a an older Pop, but well they are all happy!! I think there are so many what if's in life and sometimes they happen and sometimes they don't. A person can do absolutely everything right, eat healthy, drink green tea, take vitamins and then be killed or maimed in a car accident. No guarantees kind of thing. Sure this baby has a few possible odds stacked against him/her, but then he/she could be perfectly healthy and just be the light of the parents lives. I am only 36 and having a third has pushed me so much farther physically than I thought possible and yet, he is the joy of my world. We are celebrating his one yr bday today and I am starting to come out of the fog of three kids in 5 yrs!! But for all the fatigue I wouldn't trade one day of it bc my children are wonderful. So yeah, this one may test her metal physcially but I believe he/she will be a blessing, I hope they decide to have their little one. Maybe if you live close by you can offer up some babysitting services after baby's arrival! :)

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answers from Baton Rouge on

I wouldn't have a baby at that age.

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answers from Topeka on

You nailed it...Yes this age would be too old for me to have a baby or even considering expanding to add to my family tree.Be honest with her the reality vs text book we are all different and knowledge is power.

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answers from Washington DC on

I would tell her to take a breath and regroup. My DD was born when my DH was about her age. Her siblings were teenagers. DD was planned, but she is still a child with an older father and older siblings. My cousin is 13 yrs younger than his youngest older sister. They probably get along better than the girls ever did because there was no competition from the baby - they were older and quickly on their own. If my DH was OK with it, I'd have another baby in a heartbeat. One of DD's classmates was just an infant when her dad turned 50 and honestly there is such a wide variety of parents and families that nobody bats an eye at any of them. My DD is not the only one with much older siblings.

Of course each person needs to make her own decision, but since she is married, I think she should also talk to her DH. They should decide to have the baby, not have the baby, and if they have the baby, do they keep it?

NO child comes with a guarantee. NONE. Her older kids could turn out to have problems of their own - schizophrenia often doesn't show up til young adulthood. They could become addicted to something. She cannot expect that any of her kids is a guarantee. So she needs to be able to embrace the unknown with what's before her, not what ifs. And so does he.

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answers from Syracuse on

My grandmother was 42 when she had my mother, and that was back in 1949. Things have come a long way since then.

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answers from Norfolk on

Some women do but it would be too old for me.
If she does she'll be 66 when the child is 20 and she'll be facing retirement and college costs at the same time.
I guess she and her hubby need to figure this out.
The answer would be different for everyone.

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answers from Wichita Falls on

The chances of birth defects do go up after 40 but you are still talking about 2% or one in fifty pregnancies. Those are fairly long odds. There's a lot to be said for older parents. They are usually more patient and now that they have experience, they better able to handle many of the trials of childhood. As far as alcohol and otc meds, she'll need to talk with her doctor, but not likely to cause problems. So is 46 too old? I don't think so, but it's not me having a baby.

This is a question only she and her husband can answer. If she has a counselor, maybe from her church or work, they may be able to talk her through the question and move beyond the panic.

Either way, she needs to take more permanent measures of birth control after this if she doesn't what a repeat experience.

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answers from Seattle on

I don't think her age should be a main factor in making a decision. I know moms who had their first kid at 48 with the help of assisted reproduction - if you want a child you can make it work no matter what age you are.

The risk factors for certain genetic and birth defects increases with age, however she should get an individual risk assessment and can make a decision on whether she wants to have a screening or diagnostic test done. No one here can assess what the health risk for her or the child are, she needs to discuss it with her doctor and factor the results into her decision.

In addition there are he marital problem. My DH did not want children when I got pregnant on birth control. I made my decision to have my daughter based on my own feelings about the pregnancy and frankly his opinion had zero weight. He came around, but it has affected our marriage. I have no regrets, but I don't know what I would do if it happened again: would I decide to keep the baby and destroy my marriage or would I decide to have an abortion and keep my family together for the child I already have. Again it is a deeply personal decision that no one can help her with.

I think that you should keep your opinions to yourself and let her deal with this. Be a good friend by listening and supporting whatever decision she makes and other than that mind your own business.
Good luck.

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answers from New York on

The age alone wouldn't be an issue for me if I wanted to conceive. It's more like, every single other thing on the list. As I'm sure your friend knows, she does have a right to terminate a pregnancy. I'm actually not advocating this one way or the other -- it's too personal a decision for advice from strangers -- I just feel like someone should state outright that she does have this right. Whatever she chooses will be the right decision for her.

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answers from New Orleans on

I think anything could happened at any age(early 20s or late 40s.)

My mom was 39(almost 40) when she got pregnant with my half brother. The doctor told her NOT to get pregnant. She was on some medicine that could cause birth defects,miscarriage or death of the baby. It wasn't a planned pregnacy of course but she didn't want to abort the baby. As soon as she found out she was pregnant they change her medicine to a safer kind.She may been at least 4-6 weeks pregnant. Long story short..My brother was born HEALTHY!! No problems whats so ever. He's a very smart child. My mom worried alot during her pregnancy. I knew people who was in the 20s and had a baby with something wrong. Yes, i know after 40 the risk goes up but there's nothing your friend can do now expect to pray for a healthy baby and get check out as soon as possible.

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answers from Houston on

It truly sounds like a gift from _____________ (God, above, whatever your faith tells you.

I would keep it. Right now she can work and save, save, save. When the baby comes, she may have to make dad be a stay at home dad since she is top breadwinner. I wish her the best.

Now, what are you gonna relay to her from what all you've read here? lol

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answers from New York on

I don't get the sense you're trying to sway her to an abortion necessarily unless you made up all the negatives... This is obviously a complicated one. I certainly don't envy her. This isn't really just whether 46 is too old but 46 with a lot of other risks and circumstances. 46 is not 40 or 41. I think it's likely easier to try to influence her to have the child - you're not the one who will have to start all over raising a baby with a husband who doesn't sound that helpful and lots of risks. And then heaven forbid the child does have mental issues, you also wouldn't want her to blame you for encouraging her. You again won't be the one dealing with it all. I don't get the "punishing the child" thing. I believe in having children who are 100% or at least 90% wanted and are going into good circumstances. It's also a bit different when just the father is older or just the mother vs both parents. Do they have any family support? It seems different too than a first child at 46 when otherwise there's no chance to ever become a mother. Your friend is already the mother of 2 so knows what it's like and whether or not she has it in her to start again. I know I wouldn't want to. Maybe she will miscarry... Odds are high at that age. Just listen I guess. It's really between her and her husband.

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answers from Pittsburgh on

It doesn't sound like she wants to have a baby. Of course it is her decision - not ours or yours. But if you don't want to have a baby, you have an abortion. I do not see this as a situation where carrying the pregnancy to term with the intention of giving up the baby for adoption is a good plan. If there is any sort of problem with the baby - chances are very much against it finding a good adoptive home.

I don't see a child growing up as 'almost an only child' as a problem. I have an only child by choice and would never have it any other way.

Also a 2% risk of a serious problem is really high. Imagine your child needing a procedure that 'only carried a 2% risk of death' and now say that 2% is a low risk.

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answers from Columbus on

WOW!! First, I usually don't read the responses before I respond but in this case I totally agree with Heather D on everything; I wasn't raped but my niece was and instead of punishing the child she found a loving family that adopted her and it's an open adoption so we all get to see her grow up. I personally would never consider abortion - I can't even imagine!

I was 35 when my first was born and 38 with my second - yes, there were risks but I never even had any of the major tests done because even if there was something wrong, I wouldn't have done anything. I figure both my children were gifts from God no matter what condition!!

I would encourage your friend to consider adoption - there are plenty of people out there desperate for a baby!! Also, does she realize the chances of twins goes up with age????

Whatever she does, I hope she really considers all options!!!

Good luck!



answers from Toledo on

Sounds like your list of negatives is asking for affirmation that abortion is probably the best solution. In my opinion, it's not the baby's fault that it was conceived and statistics are still on it's side even if there is a greater risk than if it was conceived of 100% healthy 20-something parents. Although you were ok with your abortion, there are a lot of women who deeply regret having one.

If she asks for your words of wisdom, the wisest thing is to let her make up her own mind. A human life is way too serious to mess around with. What if you sway her to abortion and she ends up regretting it forever?

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