Advanced Maternal Age: What It Is, Why it Matters and What You Need to Know

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Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that for the first time ever, thirty-something women are having more babies than their twenty-something counterparts.

Whether it’s earning a higher level of education, focusing on a career, struggling with infertility, relationship changes or simply not feeling “ready” to have children in their 20s, there are many factors contributing to women and their partners deciding to have children later in life.

Regardless of your age, if you are pregnant or planning to have a baby, it’s important to talk to your primary care physician or your obstetrician/gynecologist either before or as soon as you find out you are pregnant to ensure your health and that of your baby. However, if you are 35 years of age or older, it’s essential to take special care to ensure that you give your baby the best possible start. The good news is, the majority of women of Advanced Maternal Age  (pregnant either at or after the age of 35) go on to have relatively normal pregnancies and deliver healthy babies.

At Moreland OB-GYN, our team of obstetricians have the expertise to help you and your partner overcome challenges with infertility, guide you through every stage of your pregnancy, and deliver additional care that may accompany advanced maternal age.

What is Advanced Maternal Age?

Advanced Maternal Age is usually defined by the woman being 35 years of age or older at the time she delivers her baby. You likely already know that women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have in their lives. And, it’s no secret that as you reach your mid- to late 30s, the quantity and quality of a woman’s eggs decreases. Around the age of 35, a woman’s eggs to begin to break down, making it either harder to conceive a baby or increasing the possibility that an abnormality in the baby will occur.

Risk Factors Associated With Advanced Maternal Age

For women of advanced maternal age, certain risks associated with pregnancy, delivery and the baby’s development become more prominent, including:

  • 1. Time to Conceive – If you’re over age 35, it’s possible that your eggs may not be fertilized as easy as a younger woman. If you haven’t been able to get pregnant after trying for six months, contact your obstetrician.
  • 2  Loss of Pregnancy – While it’s possible for women to lose their babies at any age, the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth increases with age. This is likely related to pre-existing medical conditions or fetal abnormalities.
  • 3 Chromosomal and Physical Abnormalities – Babies born to women of advanced maternal age have a higher risk of certain chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, mental retardation or physical abnormalities, such as heart defects or other body parts that have not shaped normally in the womb.
  • 4 Multiples – Hormonal changes can cause the release of multiple eggs at the same time. In addition, the use of reproductive techniques (e.g. fertility medications, in vitro fertilization, etc.), may increase the likelihood of twins or multiple babies.
  • 5 Gestational Diabetes – Advanced maternal age brings a slightly higher chance of having diabetes during your pregnancy. As a result, your doctor will perform a simple blood test to check for gestational diabetes. If left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause your baby to grow larger than average, not only increasing the risk of injury during delivery, but also the risk of premature birth, high blood pressure during pregnancy and complications to your baby after delivery.
  • 6 High Blood Pressure – According to research, older women are more likely to develop high blood pressure during pregnancy. Your obstetrician will carefully monitor your blood pressure throughout your pregnancy, and you may require more frequent appointments to ensure you and your baby are receiving the best possible care.
  • 7  Cesarean Section – The higher risk of pregnancy-related complications (high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, placenta previa, etc.)  for women of advanced maternal age often translates to an increase in C-section deliveries for mothers over 35.

How to Find the Right Doctor

Since being of advanced maternal age automatically puts women in the high-risk pregnancy category, meaning that you or your baby could experience problems either during pregnancy, birth or after delivery, it’s important that you receive care from a obstetrician or team that specializes in caring for high-risk patients.

Every physician at Moreland OB-GYN has cared for many patients with high-risk pregnancies. In addition, our obstetricians collaborate with perinatologists (obstetricians who specialize in high-risk pregnancies) and other specialists as needed, to ensure the best possible care for you and your baby before, during and after delivery.

What You Can Do to Stay Healthy / Fit

Taking good care of yourself before and during pregnancy, whatever your age, is the best way to take care of your baby. However, we encourage women of advanced maternal age to do the following:

  • Preconception – If possible, talk with your doctor before you become pregnant to address any health concerns or lifestyle changes that may be necessary to ensure a healthy pregnancy, delivery and baby.
  • Prenatal Care – Once you find out you are pregnant, schedule an appointment with an obstetrician and seek regular prenatal care throughout your pregnancy.
  • Healthy Eating and Weight Gain – During pregnancy, it’s essential to eat a healthy diet that includes protein, fruits and vegetables and whole grains. In addition, you’ll need more folic acid, calcium, iron, vitamin D and other nutrients, so talk to your doctor about prenatal vitamins as well as the right amount of weight you should gain throughout your pregnancy to support your growing baby and make it easier to lose the weight after delivery.
  • Exercise and Activity – From boosting your energy, improving your overall health, helping to ease discomfort and increasing your strength and stamina before childbirth, the benefits of staying active are plenty. However, talk with your physician about continuing or starting an exercise program during pregnancy.
  • Prenatal Testing – Talk to your obstetrician about prenatal tests available to screen for certain chromosomal abnormalities in your developing baby. Early on in your pregnancy, your physician may suggest different blood tests and/or an ultrasound to evaluate the chances that your baby may have a specific chromosomal problem. If your chances are elevated, special tests called Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis can be conducted, which will provide specific information about your baby’s chromosomes or the risk of specific chromosomal abnormalities. It’s important to remember that these tests cannot detect all abnormalities, and that there is always the small possibility of a birth defect being present in any pregnancy.

Whether you’ve just decided to start a family or you’re in the early weeks of pregnancy, you likely have a lot of questions, especially if you or your partner is of advanced maternal age. We’re here to help. Download your free pregnancy planning kit now to get your pregnancy planning on track.

At Moreland OB-GYN, we specialize in women’s health care and prioritizing the needs of our patients. We hope you’ll connect with us to help answer your questions and we hope you’ll turn to our experts as a trusted resource for information.

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