Question

I've heard that it's more dangerous for women to give birth after age 35, but I've also heard that that the dangers might have been exaggerated. What's the truth? I'm 38. Are there things I should be worried about?

Answer

If you’re over 35 and looking to get pregnant, you’re not alone. It’s becoming more and more common for women to delay pregnancy until their mid to late 30s. In fact, according to new data from the CDC, women in their 30s are now having more babies than women in their 20s.

While many women are able to deliver healthy babies over the age of 35, it’s important to be aware of some of the risks associated with having a child later in life. A variety of factors, including age, general health or preexisting conditions may be responsible for increased health risks when trying to conceive at a later age. Older mothers have a greater chance of developing health problems before conception, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. However, these health problems can usually be managed with the assistance of your doctor to prevent complications during pregnancy.

Women who give birth after 35 may be at risk for:

C-Section

The rate of C-sections is significantly higher among older women. Like any other surgery, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks of having a C-section and what you should expect during recovery.

Premature Birth

Women who become pregnant after age 35 have an increased chance of giving birth prematurely. For women who are 30-39 years old, about 11% of births are premature, while women who are 40-45 have an increased risk, 25%, of premature birth. The increase in premature births has been linked to greater use of C-Sections in older women as well as placental problems more likely to develop with age.

Multiple Pregnancies

Your likelihood of having twins or a multiple pregnancy increases with age and can cause serious health problems such as, preterm birth, preeclampsia, fetal growth problems, and gestational diabetes.

Miscarriage

Both miscarriage and stillbirth are much more common in older mothers. At age 35, there is a 20% chance of miscarrying. By age 45, that chance increases to 80%. Health conditions more common in older women, such as uterine fibroids, atherosclerosis and diabetes, may be contributing factor to the disruption the progress of a woman’s pregnancy.

Many women in their late 30s are able to have healthy pregnancies and deliver their babies without complications. The best way to ensure an uncomplicated pregnancy, a safe delivery, and a healthy baby at any age is to take good care of yourself and seek out proper and comprehensive prenatal care.


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