Advanced maternal age (of 35 years or older at birth) is a commonly discussed topic among healthcare professionals and mothers-to-be. Many women can still have healthy pregnancies in this age range. However, some women may have a higher risk of certain health complications at and/or after the age of 35 years old.
Increased Risk of Developing Gestational Diabetes or High Blood Pressure
Women of advanced maternal age are more likely to have a chronic condition such as high blood pressure or diabetes, which can affect the mother’s and the baby’s health. Women of advanced maternal age are also more likely to develop high blood pressure or gestational diabetes when pregnant.
Diabetes is the most common health complication experienced by women during pregnancy, and can increase the risk of birth defects in the fetus. High blood pressure can affect the placenta and cause health complications for the baby. If left untreated, high blood pressure may lead to a serious health complication called preeclampsia, when the high blood pressure has caused organs in the body to be damaged.
If you have a history of diabetes or high blood pressure prior to pregnancy, or if you are 35 years or older, your doctor will monitor your health for these complications and monitor the health of your baby more closely throughout your pregnancy.
Increased Risk of Having a Child With a Trisomy Chromosomal Disorder
If you are 35 years old or older when pregnant, your doctor may offer you the option of noninvasive prenatal genetic testing – a blood draw from the mother that can be performed as early as week 10 in pregnancy. Most women of advanced maternal age give birth to healthy babies, but the risk of having a child with a chromosomal disorder, like Down syndrome, begins to significantly increase starting at the age of 35. At the age of 40, the risk is as high as one out of every 85 births.
Noninvasive genetic testing is a screening test that indicates the risk that your child will be born with a chromosomal disorder. If results indicate a high risk, your doctor will recommend further testing that will provide a definitive diagnosis.
How Can You Increase Your Chance of Having a Healthy Pregnancy?
If you are 35 years old or older and are planning a pregnancy, it is recommended that you schedule a preconception appointment with your doctor. During this appointment, your doctor will review your current health and your family medical history in order to screen for any possible complications that might occur during your pregnancy. Throughout your pregnancy, it is important to schedule and attend regular appointments with your doctor, eat a well-balanced diet, exercise, and cease use of tobacco and alcohol. Getting regular prenatal care allows your doctor to identify any potential health risks to you and your child early on.