Geriatric Pregnancy: Is It Risky To Get Pregnant After Age 35 2024?
If you’re waiting to start a family until later in life or want more children as the years have gone by, you may wonder about your biological clock and if it’s safe or possible to have a baby after a certain age, specifically age 35.
With pharmaceuticals and assisted reproductive technologies advancing, people are aiming to control what age they have a baby. It’s common now to hear someone is delaying pregnancy to reach their educational, financial, and life-building goals first.
You can have a healthy baby regardless of age, although research shows different age groups come with varying amounts of risk. While anyone expecting is at risk for pregnancy complications, many risks increase when you’re older.
Let’s talk about geriatric pregnancy risks, or what most healthcare providers now call advanced maternal-age pregnancies. We’ll also examine the benefits and how to promote a safe and healthy pregnancy.
What Is Geriatric Pregnancy?
What is a geriatric pregnancy definition, and what age is a geriatric pregnancy?
First, geriatric pregnancy has a newer name that is more fitting for someone in their prime. Since the word geriatric means old, people now call it advanced maternal age since this doesn’t mean you’re a senior, just older than most pregnant moms.
This evolving term refers to pregnant women ages 35 and up. As more women in this age group go on to have healthy pregnancies and births, it’s showing that there’s no magic age to determine the safety of having a baby, but rather depends on your individual health and wellness.
While being the age of 35 years and up still labels you as a high-risk pregnancy in certain maternal health care settings, your doctor or midwife may order additional prenatal testing and visits throughout your trimesters.
You may face the same potential dangers as a typical pregnancy, but there may be an increase in a few of those risks.
Risks Of Geriatric Pregnancy
Each woman and her pregnancy is different, so there are many factors besides just age to determine how her pregnancy goes. Even with prenatal testing, the results can be unpredictable.
Besides the toll the aging process may take on your body, you also need a personalized risk assessment to properly determine if the risks outweigh the benefits based on your previous health and any pre-existing conditions you may have.
Research and this pregnancy-risks-by-age chart measure women’s risk factors from 2001 to 2014 according to age groups. Although the data is 10 years old, this was published, as relevant, in 2019. They conclude that advanced pregnancy age is a risk factor for conditions like:
- Cesarean section, or C-section.
- Preterm delivery.
- Abnormal fetal presentation.
- Gestational diabetes.
Here are a few other risks that no pregnancy is exempt from but may increase when you have an advanced maternal pregnancy:
High Blood Pressure
People that are older are more likely to have chronic medical conditions like high blood pressure. Also, gestational hypertension, an additional version, can add to chronic hypertension with cumulative risk. High blood pressure of any type and pregnancy do not mix well, which can lead to an increased risk of several complications:
- Preterm birth.
- Low birth weight.
- Fetal growth restriction.
- Rapid placental aging.
- Placental abruption.
- Cesarean section.
Studies show that advanced maternal age is a risk factor for chromosomal abnormalities. This is where the genetic material that creates a human has either extra, missing, or abnormal pieces.
Down syndrome, also called Trisomy 21, is one of the more commonly seen chromosomal abnormalities that affects one in 800 babies, but even more frequently with age. These babies can have birth defects, learning disabilities, and developmental delays. With pregnancies over age 40, that number increases to one in 100 babies.
On the other hand, there is a large study that finds that, except for an increased risk of genetic abnormalities, those with advanced maternal age have a decrease in risk of overall major fetal anomalies.
Fertility Problems And Miscarriage
When a baby girl is born, she has about 1 million eggs — all the eggs her body will use throughout her life. As a woman ages, the number of eggs she has, and their quality, begin to decline.
Around 35-40 years, her fertility decreases, and by age 45, pregnancy is less likely to occur. In advanced maternal age, eggs may be more prone to chromosomal abnormalities, the most common cause of a miscarriage, also known as spontaneous abortion.
Since aging may increase the chance of a chromosome abnormality, the risk increases for miscarriage as well.
Benefits Of Geriatric Pregnancy
Is a healthy pregnancy possible at an advanced maternal age for women aged 35 or older? Absolutely. There can be some significant benefits to having babies after 35 years of age.
You’re Potentially More Prepared
For some people, more resources mean better preparation. So while there’s no handbook to cover every scenario you’ll face as a parent to make you 100% ready for the task ahead, you’ve had all of your teens and 20s to figure out who you want to be as a person and learn to be an adult without having to add pregnancy and parenting into the mix as many others do early on.
If you’ve been fortunate enough during your 20s to invest in your education and secure a steady job, finances, home, and community, you may feel more ready. You may feel more mentally, emotionally, and even physically equipped to have a baby. Certainly, raising a baby with more wisdom is a plus.
Research shows several advantages to later motherhood, including:
- Better health behaviors during pregnancy.
- Happier demeanor after childbearing.
- More socioeconomically advanced.
- Better health and educational outcomes.
How To Ensure A Safe Pregnancy At An Advanced Maternal Age
Whether you’ve had previous pregnancies in younger years or if this is your first time to have a baby, you’ll want to research everything so you can avoid outdated and unnecessary interventions.
It’s time to create a plan for the type of pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum phase that suits your life and values and can help your baby come into this world safely. Here are a few ways you can optimize your pregnancy health at any age.
Create a lifestyle for yourself that includes these four essential self-care actions so you can give your best as you grow your family:
- Intentionally take care of your stress levels. Learning how to handle physical and psychological stress now will pay off greatly as you learn to take care of a new baby.
- Eating the right foods while you’re pregnant is one of the keys to success for a great pregnancy. A healthy diet consists of healthy proteins, complex carbohydrates, and omega-3 fatty acids. Limit sugar, unhealthy fats, and processed foods.
- Exercise regularly, even during pregnancy. Being over or underweight can both affect pregnancy. Maintaining a healthy weight can help you to avoid gestational diabetes and other complications. Women who are fit have smoother labor and a lower risk of needing a C-section.
- Getting adequate rest and sleep is going to help all of the above happen easier for you. Without quality sleep, you might crave more food, struggle with your weight, and have brain fog that prevents you from handling situations as best you can.
Knowledge is power, and growing knowledge takes time. You choose how deep you invest in learning about the safest methods for pregnancy, labor, birth, and postpartum phase.
Research everything, learn about the different testing your doctor may request, and decide which, if any, of the tests are suitable for you and your baby. Unfortunately, some providers still use old techniques and interventions you may want to avoid and finding out before the time can help you weigh the risks versus benefits and what’s right for your baby. Also, some testing is for considering whether pregnancy termination is indicated, so if you’re strongly pro-life you will want to know this to avoid being upset.
Whether you see a midwife, maternal-fetal medicine specialist, or obstetrics and gynecological specialist, your healthcare provider can regularly provide a health assessment throughout your pregnancy.
They can provide you with pre-pregnancy baseline bloodwork and genetic screening to help you choose the best care regimen before and after birth. Establishing this care also provides you with someone to talk with about any questions or concerns you have with your growing body and baby.
Prenatal Supplement Regimen
Prenatal supplements help ensure you get the nutrients you and your baby need to thrive during this time of growth and development, regardless of age. Taking prenatal vitamins helps to maintain energy levels, heal after birth, restore lost nutrients, and promote a healthy breast milk supply.
It’s important to select a prenatal based on your personal health history. For example, suppose you have the miscarriage-associated MTHFR gene mutation that experts estimate at least 40% of people have. In that case, you’ll want to avoid prenatal with synthetic folic acid and find one with natural folate sources instead to protect your baby’s development.
The Bottom Line
With advanced maternal age pregnancy, there appears to be some increase in the risk of certain conditions and genetic disorders, but these are all still possible during any age. So while you are more fertile during your teens and 20s, it’s still possible to naturally get pregnant in your 30s and 40s.
Regular prenatal visits and paying attention to your health can help you catch medical conditions before they become more profound pregnancy complications.
Furthermore, you can promote the best pregnancy possible, at any age, by living a healthy lifestyle. Getting in the habit of wholesome eating, sleeping, exercising, and de-stressing can help maintain your body now and after pregnancy.
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