Age and Pregnancy
More and more parents are waiting until later in life to conceive. During the past 20 years or so, the number of births to mothers over 30 has increased significantly. This may be due to the fact that so many couples are waiting until they are older to get married. Whatever the reason may be, if you are planning on getting pregnant after the age of 35, there are some inherent risks that you should know about and prepare for.
- As women become older, their eggs do not divide as well, and the risk of genetic abnormalities increases. The most common of these abnormalities, Down syndrome, is caused by an extra chromosome in the child which can cause mental retardation and problems with the heart and other organs. The two tests available for checking for chromosomal abnormalities in early pregnancy are amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS).
- Women naturally experience a gradual decrease in fertility after the age of 35. This may mean that it will be more difficult to conceive or fertility drugs may be needed.
- Women over 40 will be more likely to have developed common medical conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, which will make them more susceptible to complications during pregnancy.
- The risk of pre-eclampsia and eclampsia increases in women over 35. Eclampsia is a complication during pregnancy that can cause high blood pressure, swelling of the face and hands, and protein in your urine.
- Women over 35 have a higher risk of miscarriage, premature delivery, and stillbirth than younger women. It is also more common for older women to need cesarean sections.
- Multiple births are more common in older women, even without fertility drugs. Multiple pregnancies are inherently more dangerous than singleton pregnancies.
If you are over the age of 35 and you are planning on getting pregnant, you should take special precautions and make preparations for your pregnancy. Start taking prenatal vitamins containing the B vitamin folic acid before getting pregnant to help prevent neural tube defects. Have a well balanced diet. Lose weight if you are overweight. Women with weight problems are more likely to develop complications during pregnancy. Exercise regularly, and get enough sleep. Avoid alcoholic beverages and illegal drugs, and quit smoking tobacco. Have a pre-pregnancy checkup with your health care provider, and be sure that you are up to date on all immunizations.
As long as you are aware of the risks associated with pregnancy later in life and are prepared, you will have a better chance of dealing with or avoiding complications.