Pregnancy Over 35
Today's woman is vibrant and busy - working at her career well into her late 30s and 40s, often longer. And, because she's so busy developing her career and making a mark for herself in the world, she has put off having a family until much later. As a result, conception may be more difficult and pregnancy can have challenges that aren't an issue for younger women.
Women over the age of 35 who decide it is time to begin a family may find themselves struggling to conceive a pregnancy. While many women in their 30s and 40s manage to conceive and carry a pregnancy to term, there are risks inherent in such pregnancies that can be a cause for concern. It is a good idea for all women to have a preconception checkup to ensure their health is primed and ready for pregnancy.
Pregnancy Over 35 More Difficult
One of the reasons it may be more difficult for an older woman to conceive is because, as women age, they become less fertile. Fertility begins to decrease in women at around age 30 - it also begins to decrease in men in their 30s. Certain conditions that tend to be more common in women at this age are also contributors to infertility and problems with conception. Such conditions as:
· Endometriosis - The endometrium (uterine lining) grows outside of the uterus and adheres to other reproductive organs
· Blocked fallopian tubes - Perhaps from previous pelvic infections
· Fibroids - Very common in women, they can interfere with conception
A woman who is in her mid to late 30s who has been trying to conceive for six months or more should see her doctor to discuss assisted reproduction. There are sufficient studies to show that one-third of women between the ages of 34 and 39 and about half of women over the age of 40 have issues with fertility and conception.
Pregnant with Twins at 35
On the other hand, while women who are over 35 may have challenges with conception they also have a higher rate of multiples in their pregnancies. Twins are more likely as a woman ages because the ovaries tend to release more eggs at one time as a woman gets older. Also, women in their late 30s and 40s often required ART to conceive. This frequently results in twins or higher order births.
Potential for Birth Defects in Pregnancy over 35
One of the big concerns for older women is the possibility of birth defects in their offspring. Chromosomal issues increase with age and chromosomal defects in babies tend to be higher in women who are older. Down syndrome is perhaps the most common birth defect resulting from chromosomal damage. The numbers increase as the years go on when it comes to risk of having a baby with Down syndrome. According to the March of Dimes, a woman's risk of having a baby with Down syndrome is:
· At age 25, 1 in 1,250
· At age 30, 1 in 1,000
· At age 35, 1 in 400
· At age 40, 1 in 100
· At age 45, 1 in 30
· At age 49, 1 in 10
In order to help evaluate a woman's risk for having a baby with certain birth defects, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that all pregnant women, regardless of age, be offered a screening test for Down syndrome and certain other chromosomal birth defects. Blood tests are done in the first or second trimester and other tests, such as amniocentesis and or chorionic villus sampling are diagnostic tests that can help identify problems.
Miscarriage Risk Increases with Pregnancies Over Age 35
Yet another potential issue for women who are older is the increased risk of miscarriage. Most miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, regardless the age of the mother. And, most of these miscarriages are the result of chromosomal issues. Studies show that about 10 percent of pregnancies that have been recognized end in miscarriage for women in their 20s. The risks rise as women get older. Again, the March of Dimes provides these numbers:
· 20% at ages 35 to 39
· 35% at ages 40 to 44
· More than 50% by age 45
Additiona Risks for Women Over 35 Who are Pregnant
Additional complications that are more common in women over the age of 35 who become pregnant include:
· Gestational Diabetes
· High blood pressure that can result in pre-eclampsia
· Problems with the placenta such as placenta previa
· Increased incidence of c-sections
· Premature delivery
· Low birth weight
Does this mean that a woman over the age of 35 should not think about having a baby? Hardly. Millions of women in this age group have happy, healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies. What is does mean is that preconception care and prenatal care are very important to ensure the pregnancy goes well.
Although age can affect fertility, mature women tend to enjoy their pregnancies and motherhood in a very special way.