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Deciding to have children later in life is much more common today than it was back when our parents had kids. In fact, the March of Dimes (MOD) says that 20 percent of women in the United States have their first baby after they are 35 years old. Luckily, there is no set age that is unsafe for a woman to become pregnant, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Women over the age of 35 who are pregnant will likely have a routine pregnancy and healthy child, especially with good medical care. (Read about "Healthy Pregnancy") However, ACOG recommends older women pay special attention to some issues that may not apply to their younger counterparts because women in their late 30's and 40's make face some risks.
Quite often, according to MOD, it may take a woman in her mid 30's and older a little longer to become pregnant. That is likely because women have a decrease in fertility starting in their early 30's. (Read about "Infertility") In addition, MOD lists some of the following conditions that affect women at various ages and tend to interfere with conception:
If you are 35 or over, trying to get pregnant, and have problems doing so, MOD suggests you consult your healthcare provider. While women over 35 can have fertility problems, many can be treated successfully.
Women who become pregnant later in life may need special care, according to ACOG. Special care like:
According to ACOG, the demands of pregnancy can take a toll on any woman's body, and the risk of complications is even higher for older women. For the mother, some complications to look out for, according to ACOG and MOD, include:
ACOG says the risk of having a baby with a birth defect (Read about "Birth Defects") increases with age. Chromosomal birth defects, like Down syndrome (Read about "Down Syndrome") are more common in later age pregnancies, according to MOD. A woman's risk of having a baby with Down syndrome increases with age. According to National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the numbers look like this:
Genetic counseling and screening may be something couples would like to look into prior to becoming pregnant later in life, according to ACOG. However, if an older woman is already pregnant, ACOG suggests she be tested for genetic problems early on in the pregnancy. (Read about "Pregnancy Testing") Two such tests include amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling (CVS). In amniocentesis, a small sample of amniotic fluid is taken from the mother's uterus. This can help detect certain birth defects like Down syndrome and spina bifida. (Read about "Neural Tube Defects") CVS involves taking a small sample of cells from the placenta. Testing on these cells can detect some of the same chromosome problems as amniocentesis, but this test can be done earlier in the pregnancy. These tests do carry a small risk of miscarriage.
Women of all ages can look forward to a healthy pregnancy and delivery, according to MOD. However, as with anything else, there are certain guidelines, which should be followed. (Read about "Prenatal Care") Some of those guidelines include:
Age may play a role in your decision to have a baby, but a little extra care can go a long way in ensuring a safe and healthy pregnancy and baby. If you do have concerns, it is always important that you discuss them with your healthcare provider.
All Concept Communications material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.
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