Although delaying pregnancy until you are older may be a good idea for security and financial reasons, it may also carry considerable health risks to you and the baby. It is known in the obstetrical field that mothers who are over the age of 35 are considered to be of advanced maternal age. While the risks for some conditions become higher as you get older, most older women are still delivering healthy babies.
Chromosomal deformities, deformities of gene-carrying cells, are the most prevalent type of deformities found in children born to older women. The March of Dimes says that a woman’s chance of having a baby with a chromosomal deformity or birth defect increases with age. Down syndrome is the most common type.
The risk of having a multiple pregnancy naturally increases with age, and it is even higher if any assisted reproductive therapies are used. As you get older, it gets more difficult to become pregnant, so many women turn to doctor-assisted methods, such as in vitro fertilization or medication, to increase their chances of ovulation. These methods more than double the woman’s chances of carrying multiples.
Some studies suggest that older women have a higher rate of miscarriage. This could be due to early chromosomal deformities that stop the fetus from developing or unhealthy uterine tissue. However, there are many things you can do to help avoid a miscarriage. Before you try to conceive, get a preconception medical exam done to ensure that you are healthy enough to carry a child. Also, eat a well-balanced diet and exercise. A healthy mother has a greater chance at having a healthy pregnancy.
Chronic Health Problems
As you get older, your risk for developing other chronic health problems, such as high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, gets higher and can negatively affect your pregnancy. While most health problems can be controlled with medication or alternative therapies, it may make it more difficult to become pregnant or sustain a pregnancy for the full gestation.
The risk of delivering via Caesarean also increases due to pregnancy-related complications that are more likely with advanced maternal age. However, the risk seems to become diminished if the mother is eating a healthy diet and exercising during pregnancy. In general, taking care of yourself increases your chances for a normal vaginal delivery.
Throughout your pregnancy, your health care provider will offer a variety of prenatal tests. Many tests can detect chromosomal deformities and other health complications with your baby. Discuss the risks and benefits of any test or procedure before agreeing to them.
Make Healthy Choices
Being older and pregnant doesn’t automatically mean that you or your baby will have complications. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, staying away from harmful substances, such as alcohol and cigarettes, and seeking regular prenatal care will give you the best chance at having a healthy pregnancy and baby.