What are the risks of pregnancy and birth from age 35 onwards?

Although there are recognised risks in pregnancy to women over the age of 35 from reduced fertility, uterine implications, and medical and/or genetic conditions, it is believed that media to a large extent has exaggerated these risks because a number of woman who have given birth over the age of 35 have done so quite healthily. Research does show that miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, and disability increase with maternal but most babies born to mothers over age 35 are perfectly healthy.

Many women are preparing their physical and mental health for conception and pregnancy knowing that often these factors can be controlled. Many unforeseen and currently uncontrollable risks associated with pregnancy and stillbirth, such as chromosomal abnormality, affect women below the age of 35 too. However the following risks are recognised:

  • Medical
  • Genetic
  • Miscarriage
  • Birth
  • Physical
  • Maternity
  • Paternal (see section on aged fathering)

Medical risks

Women aged 35 plus have a higher probability of developing medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, and placenta positioning irregularities during pregnancy. These medical implications can severely impact both the carrying mother and fetus. For this reason, medical prenatal monitoring is higher in women over age 35 to reduce the risks through early diagnosis and treatment, such as controlling diabetes through diet.

Genetic risks

Research does show that women over the age of 35 have greater likelihood of giving birth to a baby with a genetic defect due to chromosomal irregularities. The probability of a genetic condition, like Down's syndrome, incrementally increases with age. Genetic testing is available to identify any possible irregularities, but does not rule out an unidentified genetic impairment.

Risk of miscarriage

Besides other contributing factors to miscarriage such as lifestyle or umbilical accidents, genetic risks, like chromosomal abnormalities, are the most common cause. Therefore as age increases these genetic risks, there is also a higher risk of miscarriage. Birth risks

Women over the age of 35 may experience more challenges when giving birth due to the physical aging of their bodies. Sometimes labour needs to be induced or instrumental and/or caesarean section is necessary to aid delivery. Reports in The British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology show that it is unclear whether medical policy for women over the age of 35 plays a more pertinent role in higher cases of caesarean section amongst older women. 

However, even though the need for inducement or assisted delivery results to reduce foetal distress, the assistance also reduces stress to mother and baby. More women over age 35 need epidural anaesthesia but there is no evidence to suggest that pregnancy and birth risks to expectant mothers aged 35 is any more or less that those for women aged 40.

Tests like the Apgar which evaluate the baby's health after birth show no major differences between babies born to women aged over 35 or those younger. These results coincide with the admission rates to the special care baby units which also show no major difference based on the mother's age. As long as the mother is has looked after her physical health so that she maintains a level of fitness and subtleness, the birth process should be fairly straightforward.

The birth can be impacted if the mother has gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, irregular placenta positioning, or uterine complications. However, usually these are monitored during maternity care where they can be early identified and treated before the birth.

Physical risks

Unless women over the age of 35 are health conscious in maintaining physical fitness, balanced nutrition and a reasonable weight for their height and build, their actual physical body can place the pregnancy at risk if they are unfit, poorly nourished, engaging in unhealthy lifestyle practices and are overweight or obese. These factors may affect younger pregnant women too, but increase other risks in pregnancy due to the aging process. Healthcare professionals can assist pregnant women over the age of 35 to build their physical fitness.

Maternity care

Screening, blood tests and tests for infection are also important prior to and during pregnancy for the expectant mother to prepare herself during pregnancy for the birth and to receive early diagnosis and treatment to reduce pregnancy complication risks. The maternity care is vital for age 35 plus mothers to maintain physical readiness to deliver a healthy baby.

Having a baby after 35:

© Medic8® | All Rights Reserved