The Joys and Risks of Having A Baby Over Age 35

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If you 35 or older and expecting a baby, congratulations! Being an older mom has lots of great advantages, like being more financially secure and having years of life experiences to draw upon when raising your child.

Mason Gomberg-001R WEB72

Mason Gomberg, MD

At Westchester Health Pediatrics, many of our moms-to-be are in their late 20s or early 30s. But to be sure, we also have a large number of moms in their late 30s and all through their 40s, which is not unusual these days. Fortunately, it’s much more acceptable these days for older women to have children, for as the average age at marriage rises in the U.S., so does the average age of new mothers. In fact, approximately 11 percent of babies born in the U.S. each year have mothers over the age of 35.

The majority of older moms have perfectly normal pregnancies and deliver healthy babies

If you’re experiencing pregnancy at a later age, it’s very important for you to take extra special care of yourself because your chances of developing certain health problems are greater when you’re 35 or older. Keep every appointment with your doctor, who will want to monitor your pregnancy with particular care. You may need to undergo a few more recommended tests to detect any development risks. And it’s a good idea to stay informed and ask questions so you can stay on top of any problems that may arise.

The risks of being an older mom-to-be

Over age 35, the risks for you and your baby are a little higher than average, but still very low. Some of those risks include:

  • Birth defects. Older women are more likely to have a baby with a chromosome disorder such as Down syndrome. If you are 25, the chance of Down syndrome is about 1 in 1,250. If you are 35, the risk increases to 1 in 400. By age 45, it is 1 in 30.
  • Miscarriage. Most miscarriages happen in the first 13 weeks of pregnancy. As you get older, your risk of early miscarriage rises. At age 35, the chance is about 20% and by age 45, it’s 80%.
  • High blood pressure and diabetes. You may be more likely to develop high blood pressure
    or diabetes during pregnancy, which can cause problems including miscarriage, growth problems in your baby or complications during birth.
  • Placenta problems. Placenta previa happens when the placenta covers all or part of your cervix. This can lead to risky bleeding during delivery. If you’re in your 40s, you’re three times more likely to have placenta problems than a woman in her 20s. Even so, this problem is rare.
  • Premature birth and low birth weight. Older women are more likely to deliver their babies prematurely, before 37 weeks. As a result, they are at risk of having babies weighing less than 5.5 pounds at birth.

The good news is that you can control many of these risks with good prenatal care

Through routine prenatal screenings and testing, you can know if your baby has a problem before birth, or at least you can be aware of the risks of your baby developing one.

7 things you can do to have a healthy pregnancy over 35

1. Take a prenatal vitamin before getting pregnant.

We recommend one that contains ARA and DHA, 2 substances that promote good eye and neurological development. Your prenatal vitamin should also contain folic acid to help prevent neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.

2. See your doctor regularly.

If you’re planning to become pregnant, get a pre-pregnancy checkup. Your healthcare provider will answer all your questions about your pregnancy, your diet, what exercises are safe, any environmental factors you should avoid for the next nine months, and a host of other topics. He/she will also review any medications you are taking. If you are planning on breastfeeding (breast is best, for you and your baby), there are certain preparations you can do ahead of time to help ensure a successful experience.

3. Manage pre-existing and chronic conditions.

Be sure you’re aware of any existing health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes.

4. Lose weight if you’re overweight.

Women who are overweight when they get pregnant are more likely to develop problems during pregnancy (and often have more issues with labor and delivery).

5. Eat healthy and avoid certain foods.

Include a wide variety of nutritious foods in your diet, especially ones that contain folic acid such as spinach, beans, lentils and sunflower seeds. Avoid shark, tilefish, king mackerel, swordfish and more than 6 oz. of albacore tuna per week.

6. Exercise regularly.

Join a workout class, start walking or jogging, try some at-home exercise DVDs…anything that gets you moving. Note: make sure you work out on a regular basis, not intermittently.

7. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

It’s very important to get lots of sleep during a pregnancy. Not only does your body need the rest and the chance to recharge, the growing baby benefits from your hours of sleep.

Pregnant and over 35? Come see us.

If you’re expecting and are in your mid- to late 30s or older, and have questions relating to your pregnancy or baby-to-be, please come in and see one of our Westchester Health Pediatrics pediatricians. We have years of experience, tips and guidance to help you have a healthy pregnancy, labor and delivery. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

Make an appt

By Mason Gomberg, MD, a pediatrician with Westchester Health Pediatrics.

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About the Author: ML Ball