Women over the age of 35 who become pregnant may be considered high risk due to advanced maternal age. This simply means they are more likely to have certain conditions and complications for mother and baby. For many women, fertility begins to decrease slowly around age 32 and then much more rapidly around age 37.
Since the mid 1970’s, more and more women have been having babies later in life than at any other time in U.S. history. The CDC reports that 18% of pregnancies were in women 35 and older in 2018, up from 15% in 2013 and 11% in 2002 and 8% in 1990.
Read on to learn about some of the challenges and benefits women of advanced maternal age may face. And, learn how to optimize your chances of having a healthy pregnancy after age 35.
Advanced Maternal Age Risks
Increased Time to Conceive
As women get older and their bodies experience typical age-related changes, it often takes them much longer to conceive. Statistics show there’s a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant during each menstrual cycle for women in their twenties. However, these chances drop to about 15 percent by age 35. By the age of 40, there’s around 5 or 10 percent chance of getting pregnant each month. This doesn’t necessarily mean a woman cannot conceive altogether, but the process will typically be more challenging.
Women have a harder time conceiving as they age, and may not be able to conceive altogether. It’s believed that somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of couples in the United States struggle with infertility. Infertility is defined as an inability to get pregnant after having frequent, unprotected sex for more than one year. For many women, fertility declines gradually as they age, and then advances more rapidly around age 37. Many causes contribute to female infertility, such as early menopause, ovulation disorders, age, and other health issues.
More Likely to See a Fertility Specialist
If you’re over age 35 and have tried conceiving for six months, it may be time to see a reproductive endocrinologist. Reproductive endocrinologists make sure fallopian tubes and eggs are functioning as they should, and recommend treatments like in-vitro fertilization or medication to encourage ovulation. Your ObGyn should be able to recommend a fertility specialist if you’re interested in exploring this path.
Higher Likelihood of Complications
When women hit age 40, they are more likely to develop pregnancy-related health complications like high blood pressure and gestational diabetes. These complications can also contribute to pregnancy-related problems such as birth complications, miscarriage, and issues with the placenta.
Increased Risk of Miscarriage
After the age of 35, women start to encounter a higher risk of miscarriage. At age 35, a woman’s risk of miscarriage is around 20 percent, but jumps to around 80 percent by age 45.
Advanced Maternal Age Benefits
Older moms are typically better educated, have higher incomes, and more resources than younger moms. Furthermore, children of older moms may end up healthier, more well-adjusted, and better educated.
Optimize Your Chances of Having a Healthy Pregnancy After Age 35
- Make a preconception appointment
- Seek regular prenatal care
- Eat nutritious foods
- Watch your weight
- Stay active
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs
- Clear any medications or supplements with your ObGyn provider
- Learn about prenatal testing for chromosomal abnormalities
Increased Prenatal Care After Age 35 Leads to Better Outcomes for Babies
December 2021 research has found that women just over the age of 35 had significantly better prenatal care services—including ultrasounds scans and prenatal surveillance. In addition, stillbirths and early newborn deaths dropped in that group. The authors studied over 51,000 births from 2008 to 2019. About half of the women giving birth were between 34.7 and 34.9 years old, and the other half were between 35 and 35.3. Results suggest that increases in prenatal care intensity may have important benefits for mother and baby.
If you would like to meet with a knowledgeable doctor, consider contacting Women’s Health Arizona. As Arizona’s largest ObGyn group, we’re trained and solely dedicated to delivering the best ObGyn experience in convenient and comfortable settings around Phoenix.