Ashanti Is Part of the Growing Trend of First-Time Parents-To-Be Over 40

There are valid reasons why this trend is on the rise.

<p>GettyImages/Paras Griffin/Contributor</p>

GettyImages/Paras Griffin/Contributor

Fact checked by Sarah Scott

Who knew that getting back with an ex could work out so perfectly? Music artists Ashanti and Nelly recently announced their pregnancy and engagement in April 2024, after rekindling their romance in 2023 following a decade apart. This will be Ashanti's first child and Nelly's fifth.

At 43 and 49, they’re proving it’s never too late for love. More importantly, it exemplifies the empowering cultural shift toward people having kids later in life.

While the number of people giving birth under 30 is in steady decline, the number of people giving birth in their 40s is on the rise. It was up 6% in 2022 from 2021, according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Birth rates among women over 45 increased for the first time since 2016, and the number of births increased by 12%.

Labor and delivery nurse Tina Bitangcol says she’s noticed the rise in her workplace. “We have a term in the obstetric community called AMA, which is ‘advanced maternal age’ for people over 35,” she explains. “But we have now started to hear another term more frequently, which is vAMA, which stands for ‘very advanced maternal age'. Earlier in my career I had only heard that a couple times over a longer span—now I hear it more often.”

Why Pregnancy After 40 Is on the Rise

The shift can be attributed to a number of reasons. According to the Pew Research Center, the 2008 recession intensified the growing trend toward late motherhood, as well as higher levels of educational attainment and women's labor force participation.

There’s a bigger push to be creative and successful in life, says Bitangcol. It's a desire to “do it all,” which takes dedication, effort, and importantly, time.

“We’ve started to see this population of people putting starting a family on hold to work hard, drive towards their goals with every ounce of effort sunk into that,” explains Bitangcol. “This doesn't leave a lot of room for babies.”

On top of that, there’s concerns over the current economy and inflation rates, as consumer prices were up 3.5% from March 2023 to March 2024, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“There are probably also people putting off having babies because they are saving for a home, or working towards clearing student debt, or just wanting to feel more secure in their job and income before committing to starting a family,” adds Bitangcol.

Plus, people are delaying getting married or finding a partner, which can impact the decision of when to have children. Another Pew Research Center report found a main reason is that people simply have not found a partner who has “what they are looking for.”

What To Consider When Getting Pregnant After 40

Natalie Crawford, MD, a double board-certified fertility doctor and co-founder of Fora Fertility in Austin, Texas, says she’s also seeing more patients starting their families later in life. Of course, it’s totally possible to have a healthy pregnancy at a later time, but there are some factors to keep in mind.

“Where we are most concerned is when someone wants to have more than one child, but is not ready to start trying to conceive until their upper 30s or early 40s,” says Dr. Crawford. “As the probability of pregnancy decreases as we age, this makes it much harder for people to have the family size that they might desire.”

It’s not a secret that egg quantity and quality starts to decrease the older a person gets.

“Women are born with all the eggs they will ever have, and they lose a group of eggs every single month,” explains Dr. Crawford. “Further, the eggs we have are inside a vault in our ovary and have been sitting there for our entire life. They absorb the wear and tear from the world around us, and we see an increase in chromosome abnormalities as we age (or a decrease in egg quality).”

There are some more things to consider too: A study from 2020 found that people over 40 are more at risk for preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, and needing a C-section. There’s an increased risk of miscarriage and preterm birth. Interestingly, there’s a surprise increase in chances of having multiples as we age.

Research shows that at 40, a person’s chance of conceiving within a year is 44%, compared to 85% for those younger than 30. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, by the time a person reaches 45, "getting pregnant naturally is unlikely."

For this reason, Dr. Crawford's biggest piece of advice for people who want to start their family over age 40 is to seek a fertility evaluation quickly. This includes a complete medical history, tests for ovarian reserve, uterine and tubal anatomy, and a semen analysis (if using a partner to get pregnant). This is so that if any problems are identified, medical professionals can intervene sooner.

The great news is there are options for anyone struggling to conceive, including in vitro fertilization (IVF). Studies show 18% of those ages 35 to 44 have used fertility services like this, as well as 7% of those under 35.

It’s also no surprise that it’s becoming more common to hear about people freezing their eggs at a younger age. Between 2010 and 2016, there was an 880% increase in people freezing their eggs in the U.S., one study found.

Using donor eggs is another increasingly common fertility treatment that can increase the odds of a successful pregnancy. It’s important to note that costs may make any of these options difficult for many people.

For pregnancies later in life, Bitangcol says medical providers will likely monitor the patient more closely, especially toward the end, just to ensure everything is progressing as it should. “I commonly see things like ultrasounds and nonstress tests to check in on things among people who are vAMA,” says Bitangcol.

Despite any risks and odds, the trend of late motherhood isn’t a huge concern for Dr. Crawford. She simply recommends that people track their cycles and understand ovulation so they can optimize each month.

“Although it is not impossible to get pregnant at age 40, understanding your cycles, tracking ovulation, and making sure there are no other factors which could impact your ability to conceive is essential,” says Dr. Crawford.

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