Doctors everywhere are seeing women who are waiting until later in life to have children, often because they first want to finish post-graduate degrees or become established in their careers. In fact, 20 percent of women wait to start a family until they are in their mid-30s.
While these women tend to make healthier lifestyle choices and are better equipped to handle the responsibilities that being a parent requires, women who wait until later in life to conceive face some challenges that younger women often do not.
However, there are steps you can take now that can increase your chances of having a healthy pregnancy later.
Risks you may encounter
While most healthy women who become pregnant after 35 go on to have healthy babies, there are some increased risks you should be aware of:
- Infertility: According to the CDC, about 12 percent of women age 15 to 44 in the United States have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. After 35, infertility rates in women rise significantly because they have fewer healthy eggs and their bodies are less able to release the healthy eggs.
- Multiple births: Infertility issues arising from advanced age can lead prospective parents to seek infertility treatments, which can increase the possibility for multiples. Because more than half of all births of multiples are premature, women using fertility medications need to be monitored closely throughout their pregnancies.
- Chromosomal abnormalities: There is a slight increase in chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, in pregnancies where the mother is older than 35. The March of Dimes reports the chance of having a baby with Down syndrome increases from 1 in 1,250 births at age 25, to 1 in 400 births at 35. If you choose, screening tests may diagnose some of these chromosomal abnormalities early in the pregnancy.
Healthy choices for healthy pregnancies
As we age, we all face a greater risk of gaining weight or developing hypertension, diabetes, thyroid disease, or other health problems that can make conceiving and pregnancy more difficult. However, there are healthy choices you can make now to increase your chance of having the healthiest pregnancy possible:
- Maintain a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Exercise regularly. Recent studies have shown that women who exercise 30 minutes a day most days have a greater chance of being fertile than women who do not.
- Take 0.4 mg of folic acid per day starting two to three months before you conceive.
- Stay away from drugs and alcohol.
- Don’t smoke.
- Ask your doctor before starting any new medications.
- Talk to your physician before trying to conceive to discuss any problems you might face.
By committing to a healthy lifestyle, you can ensure the healthiest pregnancy and birth possible for you and your baby. If you’re thinking of starting a family and are 35 or older, request an appointment with your physician to go over any unique challenges you might be facing and create a pregnancy plan that’s right for you.
Did you or your partner have a baby when you were age 35 or older? Share your No. 1 piece of advice for parents-to-be who are in the same boat in the blog comments below.