By: Kristina Rauenhorst
February 1, 2018
If you’re older than 35 and hoping to get pregnant, or have women in your company planning to start a family, you’re in good company. Many women are delaying pregnancy well into their 30s and beyond — and delivering healthy babies. Take special care of yourself to give your baby the best start.
The biological clock is a fact of life — but there’s nothing magical about age 35. It’s simply the age that’s considered the threshold for various risks. For example:
- It may take longer to get pregnant. You’re born with all the eggs you’ll ever have. As you reach your early 30s, the eggs tend to decline in quality — and you may ovulate less frequently, even if you’re still having regular periods. Does this mean you can’t get pregnant? Of course not. It may simply take longer.
- You’re more likely to have a multiple pregnancy. Age-related hormonal changes may cause you to release more than one egg at a time, which boosts the odds of conceiving nonidentical (fraternal) twins. The use of assisted reproductive technologies — such as in vitro fertilization — also may play a role.
- You’re a little more likely to develop gestational diabetes. This type of diabetes occurs only during pregnancy, and it’s more common as women get older. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can help to decrease this risk.
- Your chances of needing a C-section are increased. Many factors may be at play here. Older mothers have a higher risk of pregnancy-related complications — such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and placenta previa. These problems can lead to a C-section delivery. Labor problems tend to be more common in first-time mothers older than age 35. And if you’re carrying twins or other multiples, you’ll likely need a C-section.
- The risk of chromosome abnormalities increases with age. Babies born to older mothers have a higher risk of certain chromosome problems, such as Down syndrome, and after age 35, the increase in risk is substantially higher each year.
- The risk of miscarriage is higher. The risk of miscarriage also increases as you get older — perhaps due to the higher likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities.
Taking good care of yourself is the best way to take care of your baby. Pay special attention to the basics. Make a preconception appointment to make sure your body is prepared for the task ahead, seek regular prenatal care during pregnancy, eat healthfully, gain weight wisely, stay physically active unless your health care provider prescribes bed rest, avoid risky substances such as alcohol and tobacco, and learn about prenatal testing for chromosomal abnormalities.
The choices you make now — even before conception — can have a lasting effect on your baby. Think of pregnancy as an opportunity to nurture your baby and prepare for the exciting changes ahead.
Kristina Rauenhorst, M.D. is board certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and sees patients at Mayo Clinic Health System in Faribault.