Healthy ways to approach pregnancy after age 35

December 27, 2019 | by Jill Moran, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Moms

For various reasons, many women today are waiting longer to have babies.

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report indicates that from 2017 to 2018, birth rates declined for women aged 15-34 but rose for women aged 35-44.

Today, more women who delay pregnancy are using assisted reproductive technologies and freezing their eggs for future use.

It’s important to be realistic about what it means to have a baby later in life.

After age 35, it typically becomes more difficult to get pregnant. A healthy 30-year-old woman has about a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month, while her chances drop to only 5 percent by age 40, states the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.

As a woman ages, her fertility declines due to changes in her menstrual cycle and the number and quality of eggs she has remaining in her ovaries. Even if a woman decides to freeze her eggs, elective egg freezing is most successful for women younger than 38.

Younger women also tend to have healthier pregnancies. Women who become pregnant after age 35 have a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications, including chromosomal abnormalities, miscarriage and preterm birth. Also, the risk of developing preeclampsia increases after age 40.

The chances of a C-section tends to increase with the mother’s age as well. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the C-section rate for women older than 40 is almost double the rate for women between ages 20 to 24.

Despite the challenges, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that many women older than 35 can have healthy pregnancies and babies.

What are some healthy ways to approach pregnancy after age 35?

  • Schedule a preconception visit. Before trying to get pregnant, set up an appointment with your primary care physician, certified nurse-midwife or OB-GYN. You’ll want to review your personal and family medical history, any chronic medical conditions, if you’re up to date on vaccines, and any medications or supplements you are taking.
  • Consider prenatal testing. Prenatal screening tests assess the risk that your baby will be born with a specific birth defect or genetic disorder. Older eggs and older sperm have a higher risk of genetic abnormalities, such as Down syndrome. Is prenatal testing right for you?
  • Start taking a prenatal vitamin. Before getting pregnant, women are often advised to take a daily prenatal with 200-300 mg of DHA and at least 800 mcg of folic acid. This can help prevent serious birth defects of a baby’s neurologic system, which are formed before a woman even knows she’s pregnant.
  • Reach a healthy weight. Try to reach your ideal weight before you get pregnant. Being overweight or underweight can make it difficult to conceive and increases the chances of complications during pregnancy, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and miscarriage.
  • Get early and regular prenatal care. After age 35, you are more likely to develop conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes during pregnancy. Regular prenatal visits help your doctor monitor your health and your baby's health and review any symptoms that concern you. This helps ensure that any potential problems are caught and treated early.
  • Manage medical conditions. If you have a preexisting medical condition, such as hypertension or diabetes, or if a medical condition develops during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes, you may need to have special tests, more frequent prenatal care visits or special care during labor and delivery.
  • Quit bad habits. If either you or your partner drink heavily, smoke cigarettes, or use recreational drugs, quit now. Unhealthy habits like these put your child at greater risk for health problems both during pregnancy and after delivery.
  • Adopt a healthy lifestyle. Make healthy choices and you’ll increase your chances of a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, stay hydrated and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet rich in protein, fruits and green leafy vegetables. Limit caffeine intake and find ways to reduce stress.

Every woman is different and age alone is only part of the equation — a woman’s overall health and lifestyle choices factor in too. There are many older moms who go on to have healthy pregnancies and babies. If you’re thinking about starting a family and you have any questions, talk with your doctor.

Learn more about pregnancy and baby services at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Related blogs:

5 things to know about freezing your eggs

Trying to conceive? 4 ways to improve your chances

7 steps to take before you start trying for a baby

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