Becoming a mom after 40 is a potentially exciting time in a woman’s life, but unfortunately it is also one that carries some heightened risks. Women over 40 are at greater risk of miscarriage, stillbirths, premature births and delivering children with birth defects. However, many women who get pregnant later in life do deliver healthy and happy babies, according to the March of Dimes.
Prevention of Pregnancy Risks
Not all pregnancy risks, including stillbirth and miscarriage, can be totally avoided in moms over 40, according to the March of Dimes. However, basic steps such as avoiding alcohol, not smoking or exposing yourself to secondhand tobacco smoke and eating healthy meals can go a long way toward preventing some pregnancy problems. Also, moms over 40 should be especially careful to not change a cat’s litter box or eat high-mercury fish, such as swordfish or king mackerel.
Birth Defects Incidence and Risks
Women who become pregnant later in life have an increased risk of delivering babies with birth defects, according to the March of Dimes. A 40-year-old pregnant woman has a 1 percent chance of having a child with a birth defect, such as Down syndrome, and similar forms of mental retardation. Someone who becomes pregnant at the age of 45 has a 1 in 30 chance of delivering a baby with a birth defect; the risk jumps to about 10 percent once a mom-to-be reaches the age of 49.
Miscarriage Incidence and Risks
The risk of miscarriage also significantly increases among older expectant moms, according to the March of Dimes. About 35 percent of pregnant women between the ages of 40 and 45 will miscarry; women over the age of 45 who become pregnant have a more than 50 percent chance of not carrying those pregnancies to term. The risk is also higher among women who have suffered from previous miscarriages.
Women over the age of 40 may also suffer from a number of medical conditions during pregnancy, according to the March of Dimes. Gestational diabetes and high blood pressure are more likely to occur in moms over 40; the presence of these conditions can also increase the risk of birth defects.
Also, pregnant women over 40 are more likely to experience potentially life-threatening placenta problems. The placenta may cover part or all of the mom’s cervix, which can cause serious bleeding problems. A Cesarean birth may help reduce the risk of placenta problems.
As an expectant mom over 40, you’re much more likely to have a Cesarean (C-section) than younger woman, according to the March of Dimes. About 47 percent of pregnant women over the age of 40 deliver their babies through this surgical method rather than traditional vaginal birthing.
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