The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recently reported that the average age of first-time mothers age 35 and older has increased 23% from 2000 to 2014. Although most women over 35 have healthy pregnancies, there are some significant risks to the health of the mother and the baby.
Increased Risk of Developing High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure during pregnancy can cause the fetus to grow more slowly than normal, due to decreased blood flow to the fetus. High blood pressure may also be a sign of preeclampsia, a condition which can lead to even more severe complications. Call your physician immediately if you are experiencing extreme headaches, blurred vision, and have trouble catching your breath, as these may be symptoms of preeclampsia.
Increased Risk of Developing Gestational Diabetes
Women over the age of 25 have a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is associated with high blood pressure in the mother, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) in the fetus, and higher-than-normal birth weight, which can cause complications during delivery. Gestational diabetes also increases the mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Work with your healthcare provider to manage gestational diabetes and to monitor the health of you and your baby. If recognized early, gestational diabetes can be managed properly to ensure a healthy pregnancy.
Increased Risk of Chromosomal Abnormalities
At age of 35 or older, the risk of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality sharply increases. According to March of Dimes, the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome at the age of 30 is 1 in 1,000 – and this rate increases to 1 in 400 at the age of 35.
Women of advanced maternal age are now frequently being offered prenatal screening options to determine the risk of a chromosome abnormality. Advancements in non-invasive prenatal screening, which can be performed as early as week 10 in your pregnancy, mean more options for expectant mothers. Speak to your physician if you’re interested in learning more about prenatal testing.
Increased Risk of Miscarriage
Age is one of the most significant risk factors for miscarriage. At the age of 35, the risk of miscarriage is 20%, at the age of 40, the risk of miscarriage doubles to about 40% and again to 80% at the age of 45. The reasons for this may be due to pre-existing health conditions or chromosomal abnormalities. Research suggests that paternal age may be a risk factor as well, but to prove this more advanced study is necessary.
Work With Your Healthcare Provider
Careful monitoring throughout your pregnancy is extremely beneficial to maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Speak with your obstetrician if you have any concerns about your health, or the health of your baby, throughout your pregnancy.