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Pregnancy After 35: All You Need to Know

Statistically an increasing number of women are getting pregnant after age 35.  In fact, the number of older mothers or as some doctors like to call it, mothers of an advanced maternal age, is increasing not only in the USA but in other countries as well.

Why More Women are Delaying Pregnancy

According to statistics, one in five women today delays pregnancy until after the age of 35. In fact, over the last 15 or so years there has been a whopping 50 percent increase in first births to women over 40 years old. The reasons for this are many, but the most common ones are:

  • Getting a career going – Many women delay childbirth to concentrate on building up a career first. Once on a career path, some women find it difficult to take time out for marriage and children.
  • Ensuring that they are financially secure
  • Improved medical treatment and prenatal tests

Improvement in fertility treatments have made it possible for women to
conceive and have a healthy, normal pregnancy and baby despite advancing age. Prenatal tests have also helped in that couples can know whether or     not a fetus will have any genetic abnormalities or defects such as Down     Syndrome.

Of course, one cannot forget the stories of celebrities who have given birth after age forty. The list includes actresses such as Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, and most recently 48-year old Nancy Grace. They have given hope to legions of women who would have at one time thought they had let the opportunity of motherhood slip by.

The proliferation of online support groups of and for women who have successfully became moms after age 35, whether for the first or tenth time offers added inspiration.

Fertility and Older Women

One interesting fact about getting pregnant at an older age is that although fertility levels fall, the odds of having twins increases. While the use of fertility treatment increases the occurrence of multiples, older women can also naturally have twins without medical intervention.

Interestingly, despite what anyone may think, women over 35 and in their forties having babies is nothing new. If we check back into our family histories we will find that there have been many births to mothers who were well past 35. I know for a fact that my mom and at least one aunt had children while in their forties.

Risks Associated with Getting Pregnant After 35

While it is true that the risk to both mother and baby increases after age 35, it is really not as high as you may be led to believe. In fact, once a woman over age 35 is healthy and has no fertility issues, she has almost the same chance of a healthy baby as a 20-year old. Nonetheless, there are a few things to be aware of if you are over 35 and trying to get pregnant. The main ones are:

  • The risk of miscarriage increases
  • Fertility levels do start to drop drastically after 35
  • Health problems for the woman after 35 include gestational diabetes and hypertension, as well as endometriosis and fibroids. But these can be managed with a combination of medication and lifestyle changes, such as improved diet and exercise.
  • The need for c-section increases, however, many women over 35 have had normal deliveries without the need for surgical intervention.
  • Increased risk of Down Syndrome. It is a medical fact that a woman aged 40 has about 9 times higher chance of having a baby with this chromosomal defect than a 30 year old woman. Don’t start to panic, in statistical terms that is still less than 1 percent, but does increase with age.

So, while age 20 to 24 is the most fertile period of a woman’s life, for many this is not the right time for them to become mothers. In  today’s world, most 20 – 24-year old women are still studying or focusing on climbing the career ladder and in fact, finding themselves. Few are ready at this stage to start a family.

Preparing for Pregnancy after 35

If you are over 35 and thinking of having a baby, here are a few things you can do to improve your chances:

  • Get a pre-conception check-up, in fact, it is a good idea for the father-to-be to get one as well. It’s important to know from the get go that physically you are OK.
  • Look at your diet to ensure that you are eating properly. Forgo caffeine, excessive alcohol, and drugs if you are serious about getting pregnant. If you are on any special medication talk to your doctor before trying to conceive.  Make sure to add folic acid to your supplements as it has been proven to help prevent some neural defects in fetuses.
  • Maintain a moderate level of physical activity. If you used to exercise prior to getting pregnant there is generally no need to stop, but be guided by your doctor. However, it is not advisable to pick up exercising as a new activity while pregnant, except for walking.

The Pros and Cons of Later Life Pregnancy

Apart from the medical issues that can occur with pregnancy and motherhood later in life, other negative issues can occur. These are few however, and include being able to adjust to the changes a baby and young child will cause to a well-structured life. However, in many instances this is countered by the joy a new baby brings. Plus older mothers know that being able to have a child at an older age is a blessing and are more than ready for any change in their circumstances. In fact, older mothers tend to be less ambivalent about their pregnancies and children overall.

It is true that recovery can take longer in older women after delivery, whether by natural birth or c-section. However, because most older mothers have already achieved financial stability they can afford to get help to assist with household chores or caring for the baby if they wish.

Pregnancy at any age comes with risks, but the birth of a precious child is a joy and blessing regardless of the mother’s age.

Author: Jessica McCurdy Crooks

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