What You Should Know About Pregnancy After Age 35

Experts say a woman's overall health most important
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If you are 35 or older and concerned about risks associated with pregnancy, experts say there are various factors to consider besides your age.

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Although many studies report increased risks in pregnancies in women over the age 35, Dr. Perni says, there’s nothing magic about the number 35, says obstetrician/gynecologist Uma Perni, MD.

“Some risks do increase with a woman’s age. But what’s more important is the state of her health prior to pregnancy and during pregnancy,” she says.

If a woman is overweight or has other medical problems – especially if those problems are not well controlled – it can increase the risk of pregnancy-related issues. For example, a woman with high blood pressure should be on medication and have her blood pressure well controlled before becoming pregnant.

What to do before getting pregnant

The most important thing to do before becoming pregnant is to optimize your health by doing the following:

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“I would tell anybody who’s contemplating a pregnancy to see your doctor for a preconception consultation. Then you can have a one-on-one discussion about your personal risk factors, health status and any specific concerns you have about pregnancy,” Dr. Perni says.

Higher risks for older women

Women beyond age 35 considering pregnancy are at higher risk for the following:

Fertility issues — As a woman’s age increases, her fertility naturally declines, Dr. Perni says. “It is not as easy for a woman to become pregnant at the age of 40 compared to the age of 30. So it is also important to consider this when deciding on the timing of a pregnancy,” she says.

Preeclampsia — This condition results in high blood pressure and protein in a woman’s urine. “Sometimes preeclampsia can happen very early in a pregnancy and lead to a preterm delivery, Dr. Perni says.

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Gestational diabetes – This condition does go away after a pregnancy. However, a woman is at an increased risk of developing diabetes in later life as well as gestational diabetes in future pregnancies. Her weight, dietary habits and weight gain during the pregnancy all have a major impact.

C-sections — In general, as a woman gets older, there is a higher chance of needing a C-section because of other pregnancy complications.

Smaller babies — Older women are also at risk for having smaller babies which can also lead to long-term health problems for babies. “Although we don’t know the exact mechanisms how this happens, it’s thought to relate to a deficiency of nutrients from the placenta during the pregnancy,” Dr. Perni says.

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