Pushing 40 and preggers?
No, this is not a reality show, but it is reality for an increasing number of women who have delayed pregnancy to pursue other plans or simply mature. Although age absolutely affects reproduction rates, conceiving midlife does happen (shout-out to Kelly Preston and company). So even if you’re late to the pregnancy game, you’re not out. Here, Dignity Health’s Dr. Carrie Gordon, OB/GYN with Mercy Hospital of Folsom, advises on what to expect when you’re expecting later in life.
Advancing maternal age is still associated with an increase in complications for both the mother and child. “Over-40 mothers are two to five percent more likely to have gestational diabetes, placental abnormalities, high blood pressure and miscarriage than younger women,” Dr. Gordon explains. “The baby is also at risk of genetic disorders such as Down syndrome, premature birth, low birth weight, asphyxia and stillbirth.”
The above information, combined with the Center of Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) report that infertility affects about 11 percent of women (6.1 million), does not add up to the most favorable odds—but they’re not necessarily a deal breaker. “The options and availability for infertility treatments to women in the U.S. have improved over the past decades,” notes Dr. Gordon, crediting this progress for granting advancing-aged women, and those with significant medical problems, the opportunity to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery. She also relays that the number of women giving birth in their 40s and 50s is at record highs. “According to the CDC, the birth rate for these women has been increasing steadily for the last decade,” she adds. “This has been attributed to the improvement of reproductive medicine and prenatal care.”
EXPECT TO PROTECT
It is essential to safeguard the body’s extremely fragile reproductive system. Take the necessary steps to prevent STDs, many of which don’t exhibit signs of infection, making regular checkups essential. Choosing the right contraception can keep you on fertile ground, so discuss details with a doctor. Fibroids, endometriosis, diabetes and cancer can also impact fertility as one ages. Given this information, step up the protective measures—don’t smoke or expose yourself to toxins, maintain normal body weight, eat a well-balanced diet and exercise regularly. Adds Dr. Gordon, “Starting folic acid supplementation three to six months prior to planned conception is recommended, and make sure that all existing health problems, like diabetes and high blood pressure, are under control. Having regular visits with your health care provider can help you optimize your health prior to conception.”
EXPECT A POSITIVE OUTCOME
No pregnancy is without risk, but there are plenty of good-news post-40 pregnancy stories out there. “We are seeing over-40 pregnancies much more often that are successful,” confirms Dr. Gordon, crediting better medical care with advancements in cutting-edge infertility treatment for improving midlife mothers’ chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
EXPECT EXPERIENCE TO COUNT
“In some ways, age is an asset, not a liability,” Dr. Gordon notes. “As women mature they can become more emotionally ready to be a parent. More life experience and financial stability can accompany a pregnancy for the older and wiser.”