Getting pregnant after age 35 can be riskier, but healthy pregnancies are possible
Millennials are delaying milestones such as getting married and starting a family, and it’s reflected in U.S. birth rates — more women are giving birth at age 35 and older.
The mean age for the birth of a first child is at an all-time high of 26.6 years old, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Women having their first child between ages 35 and 39 have skyrocketed since the 1980s. The rates of women age 40 to 44 having their first child has increased fourfold from the mid-80s to now.
Things to consider before getting pregnant
- Getting pregnant can be more difficult after age 35 because of less frequent ovulation.
- 35- to 45-year-old women have a 20 percent to 35 percent chance of miscarriage compared with women younger than 35, who average a 15 percent to 20 percent chance of miscarriage, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
- Pregnant women over age 35 have an increased risk for pregnancy complications, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure) and intrauterine growth restriction (causing premature delivery).
- Women 35 and older are more likely to need a cesarean section (C-section), because the uterus may not contract as well as needed for vaginal delivery.
- Using fertility treatments are more likely to cause multiple births, including twins and sometimes triplets. It may be more difficult for women age 40 and older to safely carry more than one child.
- There are greater risks to an older mom after the baby arrives, including postpartum hemorrhage or excessive bleeding.
- Babies born to older mothers may be more likely to develop chromosomal issues, such as Down syndrome.
A healthy pregnancy is possible
While the statistics can sound scary, having a healthy pregnancy after age 35 is possible. Here’s what you can do to get ready and consider during pregnancy:
- Make sure your body is ready for baby. Talk with your primary care provider about your desire to get pregnant so you can work together to make any lifestyle changes.
- Consider genetic testing. Many couples are choosing genetic testing before starting a family. Learning about what conditions you or your partner may be a genetic carrier for can help ease fears and understand your risks.
Your pregnancy is high risk. Now what?
Your OB/GYN or midwife may refer you to a perinatologist for extra care. At Norton Healthcare, our perinatologists are called maternal-fetal medicine specialists. They are trained at caring for high-risk pregnancies in which mom or baby may be experiencing a health condition.
Maternal-fetal medicine specialists go to medical school for obstetrics and gynecology. They then complete fellowships focused on the obstetrical, medical and surgical complications of pregnancy. Maternal-fetal medicine specialists work closely with you to help you understand the latest approaches to managing your pregnancy.