Pregnancy After 35
In most Western countries, there has been a significant rise in the amount of women choosing to postpone motherhood until their 30s and 40s. In America, there has been a 60 percent rise (since the 1970s) in the number of women aged between 30 and 44 giving birth. Additionally, statistics show that the number of women in this category giving birth for the first time has dramatically risen by 460 percent. The social reasons for delaying childbearing are numerous. Women are choosing to concentrate on education and careers first or deciding to have smaller families so starting them later. Also, there has been a significant rise in the number of single women using artificial insemination.
The good news is that science and living standards have improved which means that most women having babies in their late 30s or early 40s can have successful and comfortable pregnancies. Prenatal exams such as amniocentesis test, pregnancy ultrasounds and chorionic villus sampling tests have reduced the risks of bearing a child with a genetic defect. Nevertheless, women who choose to wait to have children later in life must recognize that there are certain risks involved which require consideration. The risks of infertility, miscarriage, low birth weight babies and fetal abnormalities increase with the age of the mother. However, with good prenatal care and medical advice, you may be able to reduce those risks substantially. Here is a general guide to the issues you should consider:
The older a couple become the more difficult it is or longer it can take to become pregnant. Although age directly affects the fertility of both men and women, it still remains more of an issue for women. The so-called biological clock starts to tick after the age of 30, and rapidly so after 35. The number of fertilizable eggs a woman has runs out long before her last period. One American study showed that:
• By age 30: 7% of women had problems conceiving
That said, sharing is caring. Recently scientists discovered that men also go through a version of menopause, and after the age of 35 their sperm count declines. One study showed that men over 35 have a 50 percent less chance of conceiving with their partner (of a similar age group) during a one year period, than men who are younger than 25 (male infertility). Fortunately, with the aid of infertility treatments like In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), egg donation, sperm donation and embryo donation, pregnancy can still be achieved, where natural methods have failed.
Fertility And The Birth Control Pill
Statistically, the likelihood of a chromosomal abnormality in a fetus increases with the age of the mother. Down syndrome, Patau’s syndrome and Edward’s syndrome are all chromosome disorders. For this reason, women over 35 are usually offered either an amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling to scan for possible birth defects and problems (btw these tests are also offered as a paternity test while pregnant). Screening and blood tests are usually carried out in the first trimester or second trimester.
The risk of intrauterine fetal death birth doubles when the woman is aged in her late 30s, and quadruples by the age of 45. One possible reason is the increased risk of chromosome abnormalities. Genetic counseling and screening can help eliminate this risk. Some clinicians insist older woman have electronic fetal monitoring during birth to keep a closer eye on the baby's heart rate and any possible signals of fetal distress.
Miscarriages are common in women of all ages, and mostly occur in the first trimester. The risk of miscarriage however does increase with age. Medical studies suggest that about 20 percent of all pregnancies in women aged between 35 to 39 end in miscarriage. This rises to 35 percent between the ages of 40 and 44, and 50 percent by age 45 or over. See: What are the signs of a miscarriage?
C-section delivery and labor inductions are more common in older moms. There is also a chance that labor will last longer, particularly in the second stage. However, some doctors insist this is less to do with nature but more to do with the fact that women over 35 are given more medications during childbirth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 41 percent of women aged between 35 and 40 were given a cesarean, and this rises to 47 percent of women aged over 40. This compares to 27 percent of women between the ages of 20 and 24.
Gestational diabetes: A particular form of diabetes which develops for the first time during pregnancy. Women over 35 are twice as likely as women in their 20s to develop this condition. Gestational diabetes can result in an abnormally large baby, which in turn can lead to delivery complications and risks of injury to both mother and baby.
Preeclampsia: Pregnancy induced hypertension; preeclampsia is a set of conditions which can develop in the third trimester of pregnancy, and if not treated can lead to eclampsia and possibly death. Women who are over 35, bearing a second or later child are more at risk of developing preeclampsia, particularly if they are obese.
Vaginal Bleeding: Abnormal bleeding during pregnancy is twice as common in the third trimester in older women.
Placental problems: Placenta previa is the most common of placental problems which results in severe bleeding during delivery. Women in their 40s are nearly 3 times as likely to develop this condition as younger women.
Premature birth: Women aged 40 and older are more likely than younger women to deliver prematurely (that is, before week 37 of pregnancy).
Despite all this, parents in their late 30s and early 40s are often in a much better place, financially and emotionally to raise children. Also, because older women are more likely to have achieved a certain amount of fulfillment in their careers, they are less likely to seek fulfillment through their children.
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For more questions relating to pregnancy after 35 see the following:
Will pregnancy raise my blood pressure?
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