How Your Age Affects Your Pregnancy
You may have noticed that more women are giving birth later in life. In fact, about one in five babies is born to a woman over the age of 35. Although being in your late 30s or 40s is hardly “old,” but from a pregnancy standpoint, over 35 is classified as “advanced maternal age.” If you’re planning on getting pregnant and you’re no longer in your 20s or 30s, you can still deliver a healthy baby. Yet, being older does increase the risk of pregnancy complications. Let’s look at how your age affects your pregnancy.
Giving Birth Later in Life May Carry Some Risks
Once you reach a certain age, the eggs your ovaries produce are older and more prone to gene mutations that can lead to birth defects. The risk of delivering a baby with Down’s syndrome also goes up after the age of 35. It’s after the age of 35 that obstetricians recommend additional studies, such as an ultrasound, to screen for abnormalities that might affect your baby.
What types of testing is available? During the second trimester, you can get a screening test to see if you’re likely to have a baby with a birth defect. If the test is positive, you have the option of getting a diagnostic test to confirm that your baby does, indeed, have an abnormality. If a screening test is positive, it doesn’t always mean your baby has a defect. That’s why you need an additional diagnostic test for confirmation.
Is the Risk of Pregnancy Complications Higher?
Women who conceive later in life are more likely to have health problems associated with aging, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, or obesity. Being pregnant later in life, especially with health problems, places you and your baby at higher risk of complications. Some of the complications older moms-to-be are at higher risk for include miscarriage, premature birth, giving birth to a large baby, as well as developing problems like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
You can still have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a fit and strong baby even if you’re in your 40s or even 50s. If you lead a healthy lifestyle and have no medical conditions, your chances of doing so are better.
How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy Regardless of Age
Doing the right things while you’re pregnant makes it more likely you’ll have a happy, healthy baby – and it’s important to commit to a healthy lifestyle early. If you’re trying to get pregnant, regardless of age, visit a health care provider first. If you’re trying to conceive, they’ll recommend starting a folic acid supplement. Folic acid reduces the risk of having a baby with a type of birth defect called a neural tube defect. Neural tube defects can cause severe damage to a baby’s brain and spinal cord. If you’re over the age of 35, you’re at greater risk of having a baby with birth defects.
It’s also important to make sure you’re healthy before becoming pregnant, especially if you’re older. Leading a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy, including exercise (if your doctor approves) and eating a nourishing diet of mostly whole foods gets your pregnancy off to the right start, regardless of age.
WebMD. “Pregnancy after 35”
Science Daily. “New evidence on risks of advanced maternal age”
WebMD. “Pregnancy After Age 35 – Topic Overview”