Advanced Maternal Age – Risks and Precautions

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In the 13 years I’ve been working in the maternity unit, I have seen more and more women who have waited until they were 35 or older to have children.   Of course, there are as many different reasons to wait as there are women, but the most common reasons seems to stem from the desire to wait until attaining a stable family base and/or being financially stable.

Also, the improvement of medical science and fertility treatments has made it possible for older mothers, and women who previously were unable to conceive, to have a chance to have a baby.

If a woman is over the age of 35, she is considered to be of Advanced Maternal Age, and with this title comes risks for mom and baby.

  • Increased risk of Down Syndrome – the most common chromosomal birth defect (chromosomes – cells that carry genes and transmit heredity information)
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
    • 20% increase at ages 35 to 39
    • 35% increase at ages 40-44
    • Over 50% increase by age 45
  • Increased risk of Cesarean Section (C-Section) for delivery method
  • Gestational diabetes – diabetes that develops for the first time during pregnancy. Women who have this could possibly have a very large baby who then is at risk for injuries during delivery.
  • Pregnancy Induced Hypertension – High blood pressure
  • Placental Problems – one of the most common placental problems is placenta previa in which the placenta covers all or part of the uterine opening (cervix). This can cause severe bleeding during delivery and can make C-section delivery necessary.

Even with all of these increased risks, with the advancement in medical procedures and testing, there are several ways to reduce your risk. They include early and regular prenatal care, taking the multivitamin with folic acid prescribed by your health care manager, beginning pregnancy at a healthy weight, not smoking or drinking alcoholic beverages, and eating healthy foods.

{ MORE: How To Breastfeed From Only One Side }

There are tests that all pregnant women are encouraged to take, but there is additional prenatal testing that is regularly offered to any woman 35 or older because of the potential of increased risks to the mother and baby. These tests are chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis.

What do you think? Advanced Maternal Age – Risks and Precautions

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11 comments

  1. Avatar of Tonya Tonya says:

    I honestly think that doctors tell us most of this stuff as a scare tactic so that we can pay them more money. I have known A LOT of older moms and none of them had any ‘complications’ and all of their babies were just fine. I myself am now 43 with baby number three and I am ready to deliver next month with no health problems at all and my baby is normal. I think that it has a lot more to do with the fact that an average woman by the time that she is over the age of 35 has probably consumed more ‘bad stuff’ in her life. She probably has taken prescription drugs for years in the past, perhaps used various forms of medicated birth control for a long period of time? All of these things add significantly to the ‘risks’ of pregnancy and childbirth. I think that the key is healthy living. I am actually healthier now in my 40′s than I was with my first two children that I had at 18 and 23. At that time I was deathly poor with no food, no money for vitamins, we often could not pay to keep our utilities on and once we even lived for a short period of time in our car. Naturally by this time in life I am much better off and yes, I am a bit overweight too which is supposed to add ‘complications’ but has not. Again, I am very healthy and I actually have food and can also live in a less stressful lifestyle. I think that we women should concentrate on these things far more than we should our age when considering or dealing with pregnancy.

  2. Avatar of Barbara Barbara says:

    I’d like to see more pregnancy sites informing women about the AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) test for ovarian reserve. Many U.S. doctors are not yet using this test, and from what I understand, it is not always covered by all insurance companies, I only became aware of it when doing fertility treatment in Japan, but my understanding is that it is more accurate than the Clomid test and can be a way to help women make informed decisions about the timing of conception based on their own number of eggs remaining. I’d like to see sites like this one and Dr’s pushing insurance companies to cover this testing from the age of 25 on since some people show a decline in egg reserves at a young age, or drastic drops rather than a gradual decline. Secondly, please inform readers about Fetal Cell Free DNA testing that can be done at 10 weeks gestation and does not carry risks of miscarriage. I’m 40, have reduced ovarian reserve (equivalent to about a 47 year old based on Clomid test and AMH), tried IVF unsuccessfully, then conceived naturally. I’m 28 weeks pregnant and my baby has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome and AVSD. Although we are still excited and in love with our unborn child, I can’t help but think that if I had known my ovarian reserve was far less than it should be for my chronological age (which is already advanced, and then add on a faster than normal ovarian reserve decline with unknown cause), I might have ignored all the people assuring me that b/c I’m in good health etc. my age would not matter. It does matter and even young people can have reduced number of eggs or reduced quality. We need Dr’s and insurance companies to help us have the info. needed to make smart decisions.

  3. Avatar of Lisa Lisa says:

    Me and my husband been together 20 years I was told at the age of 15 I would never be able to have kids . My baby never grew past 5 weeks I had lost it at 3 months I didnt give off enough hormones for the baby to grow they tried to give me some but it was already to late… as of right now we are trying again and im 36! so i hoping it dont happen again but reading this is making me wonder about the what if……

  4. Avatar of Seity Seity says:

    I don’t believe it for a minute. I didn’t even consider getting pregnant until I was 35. Had my first at 36 and my second at 39. I had the easiest, healthiest pregnancies and labors. If you are in generally good health and take care of your body, it doesn’t matter if you are 20 or 40 when you have your first baby. Most of the young moms I talk to seemed to have it a lot harder than I did.

  5. Avatar of Flo Flo says:

    You know after I was shot, I was told that I couldn’t have children until I had my bariatric surgery in which the bullet fragments were removed and I lost over 120 lbs. September 03, 2011 I married my soul mate and he told me that every woman should experience child birth. I am 41 yrs old and I am 31 weeks and 5 days pregnant. I have had my fair share of issues, but our son is doing great and we cannot wait to meet him.
    Labels due to age are unnecessary, unless you’ve walked in our shoes, there is no reason to place a name on it. Instead, I think it would be best to just support us.
    Be blessed

  6. Avatar of Lulu Lulu says:

    I thought 35-40 was not too advanced…learn something new every day!

  7. Avatar of Aimee Aimee says:

    Hopefully I don’t run into these issues.

  8. Avatar of melissa melissa says:

    I’m 34 weeks and I have placenta previa. I have to have a c section. My doctor told me it was an unknown cause!

  9. Avatar of Jeanetta Jeanetta says:

    I’m 38 years old and pregnant with my first child, if I hear advanced maternal age one more time I’m going to scream…every time I went to my OBGYN my age was a problem and I understand I’m older and the risks and believe me I’ve had problems… placenta previa, genetic testing and worries, my blood sugar is starting to go up, worries about my blood pressure…but I switched hospitals and to a midwife and she is awesome about everything and as it stands at 36 weeks she thinks I can have a natural birth and hang out in a labor tub when I go into labor.

  10. Avatar of Julie Julie says:

    Waiting could be better for some people. Sounds like the risks go up the longer you wait though.

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