Today, many women are delaying pregnancy until their early or late 30’s according to new statistics from the CDC. In fact, in the United States and Canada, new mothers in their 30’s comprise over 1/3rd of the population of expectant mothers each and every year. According to the Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology pregnancy after 35 automatically makes the pregnancy ‘high risk,’ according to medical definitions and will require extra prenatal care as well as procedures that surpass that for women under the age of 35.
Delaying pregnancy increases the risks and complications during pregnancy for sure. However, while it is important to understand the risks and be able to assess your predisposition to such risks it is also vital to understand that with healthy prenatal care, many, many women experience healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy full term babies.
The biological clock is one that has no reset button. One risk for delaying pregnancy is the fact that you may experience fertility issues. Around half of all women over the age of 33, experience some frustrations with fertility. Not only is there a reduced amount of healthy eggs during ovulation but many women do not ovulate on a normal basis, as in every month. So this can mean that it takes longer to get pregnancy, or that medical fertility treatments can become necessary.
Other risks include the following:
- Since many women require fertility help, the chance for a woman over the age of 35 to have twins is double what it is when she was 25. Additionally, since ovulation is less predictable, may happen twice on one ovary, or with two ovaries at a time the chance of twins is heightened.
- Risks for gestational diabetes increase with age. In fact, around half of all women over the age of 35 who are pregnant develop gestational diabetes. This is true even if the woman have been pregnant before without diabetes. Because of this, health care professionals are normally vigilant at performing testing throughout pregnancy. If gestational diabetes is found, there are both mother and baby risks that can affect delivery.
- The risk of having a C-section increases by 46% for women who delay pregnancy. One reason is because older women have a higher chance of developing placenta previa, which can make natural delivery risky or impossible. Other health concerns of women over 35 also increase the risk of having a C-section.
- Because the eggs in the ovaries are older, there is a higher risk of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities. This is one reason that older women are twice as more likely to deliver a baby with Downs Syndrome. Early testing, including an amniocentesis is often suggested for women over 35. But these tests also carry risks and you should research them thoroughly before having them performed. There are also other factors that contribute to Down Syndrome aside from advanced maternal age.
- Risk of miscarriage is much higher the older you get for multiple reasons.
- Many older women, who get pregnant, even without high blood pressure, will develop high blood pressure during pregnancy. Unfortunately, this often does not resolve after childbirth and becomes a chronic condition.
The schedule of care outlined by the Academy of Obstetrics and Gynecology requires more frequent visits to the OBGYN for women over the age of 35. With advanced testing, pre-screenings and risk factor assessments, most women find that they are able to have a healthy pregnancy and deliver a healthy baby. However, by the age of 40, the risks outlined herein double in frequency and do so each year until a woman hits menopause.
Even so, if you have waited and feel panicked that your biological clock has all but ticked away, there is no need to be overcome with worry and stress. The Mayo Clinic estimates that around 95% of all women over the age of 35 who delivery babies experience little to no life threatening issues with pregnancy or childbirth, and go on to deliver healthy babies. As long as you are committed to prenatal care, and check with your doctor at the first sign of trouble, you should be just fine.