Over 35 and Pregnant: Manage Health Risks for You and Baby
Reproductively, age 35+ is advanced maternal age. Learn the risks and what help is available.
One of the problems with aging, at least for women, is their proverbial biological clock. If you want to get pregnant, you really do need to pay attention to it.
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Many women deflate when they learn that at age 35 or older, they’re considered elderly, at least in reproductive terms.
“Advanced maternal age is really a misnomer,” says maternal fetal medicine specialist Abdelaziz Saleh, MD. “In my opinion, the term is very insensitive. It leads to the thought, ‘Ow! Am I too old?’ If the woman isn’t overweight, eats right, maintains a healthy lifestyle and follows her doctor’s recommendations, it’s likely she won’t have any issues in her pregnancy.”
As a medical diagnosis, advanced maternal age serves as a heads up for healthcare professionals. It simply means the woman is 35 or older, which could make getting pregnant problematic. Or, if she is already pregnant, she or her baby might be more prone to certain risks.
As a woman ages beyond 35, the risks of various health conditions and birth defects increase for her unborn baby. Among these conditions are:
Nicole Herbst, now 40, and her husband, Rob, knew their age could be a factor, but they wanted a baby.
“I knew that medically and scientifically I was considered ‘advanced maternal age,’ but I tried not to let it define me,” she says.
Herbst hoped her lifestyle would counteract her risks.
“I don’t smoke. I exercise and I’m a vegetarian,” she says. “Still, it scared me knowing that as I aged, my egg quality went down, and that this, plus my age, might create risks for my baby.”
Although Nicole’s pregnancy was not considered high-risk, one way a woman can lessen her anxiety and reduce her risks is by consulting with a maternal-fetal medicine specialist before she even conceives. Maternal-fetal medicine focuses on high-risk pregnancies, whether that impacts the mother, the baby, or both of them.
“We can design her treatments to fit her situation,” says Dr. Saleh. In addition to tracking personal and family histories, this might include ultrasounds, blood tests, and other options to ensure mom and baby are doing well throughout the pregnancy.
That plan worked for the Herbsts. After four years of trying to conceive, the Herbsts welcomed a baby girl in March, 2014. She was born at Fairview Hospital.