Are you considering pregnancy after 35?
Understand the issues for older mothers — and know what it takes to have a
If you're older than age 35 and hoping to
get pregnant, you're in good company. Many women are delaying pregnancy well
into their 30s and beyond — and delivering healthy babies. Taking special care
can help give your baby the best start.
Understand the risks
The biological clock is a fact of life,
but there's nothing magical about age 35. It's simply an age at which various
risks become more discussion-worthy. For example:
take longer to get pregnant. You're born with a limited number of eggs.
As you reach your mid-to-late 30s, your eggs decrease in quantity and
quality. Also, older women's eggs aren't fertilized as easily as younger
women's eggs. If you are older than age 35 and haven't been able to
conceive for six months, consider asking your health care provider for
likely to have multiple pregnancies. The chance
of having twins increases with age due to hormonal changes that could
cause the release of multiple eggs at the same time. The use of assisted
reproductive technologies — such as in-vitro fertilization — also can play
You're more likely
to develop gestational diabetes. This type of diabetes, which occurs only
during pregnancy, is more common as women get older. Tight control of
blood sugar through diet and physical activity is essential. Sometimes
medication is needed, too. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause
a baby to grow significantly larger than average — which increases the
risk of injuries during delivery. Gestational diabetes can also increase
the risk of premature birth, high blood pressure during pregnancy, and complications
to your infant after delivery.
You're more likely to develop high blood pressure
during pregnancy. Research suggests high blood pressure that
develops during pregnancy is more common in older women. Your health care
provider will carefully monitor your blood pressure and your baby's growth
and development. You will need more frequent obstetric appointments and
you might need to deliver before your due date to avoid complications.
You're more likely to have a low birth weight baby
and premature birth. Premature babies, especially those born
earliest, often have complicated medical problems.
You might need a C-section. Older
mothers have a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications that might
lead to a C-section delivery. An example of a complication is a condition
in which the placenta blocks the cervix (placenta previa).
The risk of chromosome abnormalities is higher. Babies born
to older mothers have a higher risk of certain chromosome problems, such
as Down syndrome.
The risk of pregnancy loss is higher. The risk of
pregnancy loss — by miscarriage and stillbirth — increases as you get
older, perhaps due to pre-existing medical conditions or fetal chromosomal
abnormalities. Research suggests that the decrease in the quality of your
eggs, combined with an increased risk of chronic medical conditions such
as high blood pressure and diabetes, could increase your risk of
miscarriage. Ask your health care provider about monitoring your baby's
well-being during the last weeks of pregnancy.
While further research is needed, studies suggest that
men's ages at the time of conception — the paternal age — also might pose
health risks for children.
Make healthy choices
good care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby. Pay special
attention to the basics:
Make a preconception appointment. Talk to
your health care provider about your overall health and discuss lifestyle
changes that might improve your chances for a healthy pregnancy and baby.
Address any concerns you might have about fertility or pregnancy. Ask
about how to boost the odds of conception — and options if you have
Seek regular prenatal care. Regular
prenatal visits help your health care provider monitor your health and
your baby's health. Mention any signs or symptoms that concern you.
Talking to your health care provider is likely to put your mind at ease.
Eat a healthy diet. During
pregnancy, you'll need more folic acid, calcium, iron, vitamin D, and other
essential nutrients. If you're already eating a healthy diet, keep it up.
A daily prenatal vitamin — ideally starting a few months before conception
— can help fill any gaps.
Gain weight wisely. Gaining the
right amount of weight can support your baby's health — and make it easier
to shed the extra pounds after delivery. Work with your health care
provider to determine what's right for you.
Stay active. Regular
physical activity can help ease or even prevent discomfort, boost your
energy level and improve your overall health. It can also help you prepare
for labor and childbirth by increasing your stamina and muscle strength.
Get your health care provider's OK before starting or continuing an
exercise program, especially if you have an underlying condition.
substances. Alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs are
off-limits during pregnancy. Clear any medications or supplements with
your health care provider ahead of time.
prenatal testing for chromosomal abnormalities. Ask your
doctor about prenatal cell-free DNA (cfDNA) screening, a method to screen
for certain chromosomal abnormalities in a developing baby. During
prenatal cell-free DNA screening, DNA from the mother and fetus is
extracted from a maternal blood sample and screened for the increased chance
for specific chromosome problems, such as Down syndrome, trisomy 13, and
trisomy 18. Diagnostic tests such as chorionic villus sampling and
amniocentesis can also provide information about your baby's chromosomes
or the risk of specific chromosomal abnormalities, but also carry a slight
risk of miscarriage. Your health care provider can help you weigh the
risks and benefits.
Look toward the future
The choices you make now — even before
conception — can have a lasting effect on your baby. Think of pregnancy as an
opportunity to nurture your baby and prepare for the exciting changes ahead.
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