Pregnancy and age: What you should know when starting a family later in life

Friday, April 21, 2017

pregnant-working

Having children at an older age has become increasingly common in recent years.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of women over the age of 35 having their first baby has increased nearly 30 percent since 2000.

“Today, women are waiting longer to start a family,” says Beaumont OB/GYN and Maternal-Fetal-Medicine doctor Samuel Bauer, M.D. “Then as they become older, they start to think about fertility and wanting a family, and that’s when they decide to have a child.”

If you’re thinking about starting a family, or adding to an existing one, here’s what you should know about how your age can affect your pregnancy:

When is “too old” to have a baby?

According to Dr. Bauer, who is also the medical director of Beaumont’s outpatient perinatal clinical services and perinatal outreach, there’s really no age that’s "too old.”

He says there is a spectrum of additional risks you take on as you age, but the myth that you must have a baby before you turn 35 is arbitrary. However, as you get older, the chances you’ll have a caesarean section increase as older women have health issues that sometimes lead to problems during a natural birth. 

What types of risks come with becoming pregnant at any older age?

There’s several risks that increase as you become older, such as hypertension, diabetes and the risk of your child having a genetic disorder. As you get older, there is decrease in fertility, which can lead to an increased chance of early pregnancy loss.

Dr. Bauer says risks are always increasing as the age of the patient does, but there’s things you can do to help lower them and ensure a healthy pregnancy.

What can you do to help increase your chances of a normal pregnancy as you age?

As you get older, some of the steps you can take to ensure a healthy baby include staying as active as possible, eating a healthy diet and not smoking. Dr. Bauer also says being in control of any condition you may have, and managing its symptoms, can help lead to a normal pregnancy.

Being educated on the risks and ways to manage them is important if you’re thinking about having a baby. Always consult with your doctor if you have questions about whether you’re healthy enough for pregnancy. 

“While the risk of pregnancy complications increase as women become older, many women are able to achieve a very successful, uncomplicated pregnancy,” says Dr. Bauer. “I encourage patients to meet with their OB/GYN prior to, or early on, in their pregnancy to discuss possible complications and risks and help formulate a risk reduction strategy for a healthy pregnancy.”

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