Risks of Pregnancy Over 35
More and more women are waiting to have children later in life. In fact, the average age of women giving birth for the first time has continued to rise over the past 40 years. First birth rates for women aged 35-39 rose six-fold from 1973-2006, and first-birth rates for women aged 40-44 more than doubled from 1980-2012. With so many women giving birth over the age of 35, it’s important to know the possible risks, the screening options available and the steps you can take to have the healthiest pregnancy possible.
What Risks Are Associated with Being Pregnant Over age 35?
If you get pregnant over the age of 35, you are automatically considered to be of advanced maternal age. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a perfectly normal pregnancy, but you should know that there are additional risks associated with having a baby over the age of 35, such as:
It may be harder to conceive.
First, you may have a harder time getting pregnant than if you were younger. Each woman is born with a set number of eggs and, whenever you ovulate, an egg is released. As you reach your mid to late-30s, both the number of eggs you have and the quality of them declines, and the eggs you do have left may not be as easily fertilized. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than six months, talk with your healthcare provider about options that might help.
You are more likely to get gestational diabetes.
Gestational diabetes occurs when glucose levels rise significantly during the pregnancy. High insulin levels put you at risk of having a very large baby, as well as a baby with other health problems. The chance of developing gestational diabetes increases for women over 35. If your doctor tells you that you have gestational diabetes, strict control of blood sugar and physical activity are essential.
You are at a higher risk of having high blood pressure.
High blood pressure (also called hypertension) that appears during pregnancy is also more common in older women. High blood pressure can decrease the flow of blood to the placenta, which can lead to slow growth, low birth weight or preterm birth. If your blood pressure is high, your doctor will want to monitor you more closely, as well as your baby’s growth and development.
You are more likely to develop preeclampsia.
Preeclampsia occurs when a pregnant woman develops high blood pressure and has signs that some of her organs are not functioning properly. Some symptoms to watch out for include changes in vision, severe headaches and upper abdominal pain. If you are diagnosed with preeclampsia, it will be crucial for you and your doctor to monitor and manage your blood pressure.
You have a higher likelihood of having multiples.
As you age, your chance of giving birth to twins or other multiples increases. About 5 percent of births among women over 35 are twins, while almost 20 percent of women over 45 had multiples.
You are more likely to have a C-section.
Approximately 42 percent of pregnant women 35-39 years old had C-sections, compared to just 28 percent of women between 20 and 24. This is thought to be because older women tend to have more delivery complications.
You are more likely to have a premature or low birth weight baby.
A baby is considered preterm when born before 37 weeks of gestation, and considered to have a low birth weight when weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces. Premature babies tend to have more health problems than those born on time. Because of this risk, you should consider choosing a hospital that has a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
Women over 35 may or may not experience the above risks. What is most important is to connect with a healthcare provider as early in the process as possible, and follow his or her guidance for the best outcome.