More women are waiting longer before becoming mothers and it's easy to understand why. In our thirties and forties we are typically finished with school, settled into a career and we’re more financially stable. The benefits to that are clear. However, a woman who becomes pregnant at age 35 or older is considered of Advanced Maternal Age. With this label and age comes a few medical concerns.
Unlike men who produce sperm well into old age, women are born with all of the eggs they will every make. How long you have to use them is directly correlated to what age you began ovulating. A girl who starts her period at age eleven will run out of eggs sooner than a woman who doesn’t start until she’s 16. Menopause isn’t sudden and you won’t reach a day that you are suddenly not fertile. It is a slow decline and luckily there are many fertility options you can discuss with your doctor.
Though the reason is hot well understood, women of Advanced Maternal Age are more likely to experience chromosomal abnormalities. This is also the primary reason for increased miscarriages in pregnant women over 35. If the pregnancy remains viable in spite of the abnormality the result is a child born with diagnosis such as Down Syndrome. Blood tests performed as early as 11 weeks gestation screen for birth defects in any women who would like to know, but they are more frequently recommended to women of Advanced Maternal Age.
Another anomaly is the increased risk of stillbirth. It is not well understood but it is a real risk. A 40-year-old pregnant woman is at the same risk for stillbirth at 39 weeks as a 25-year-old woman is at 42 weeks. For this reason the rate of delivery via cesarean section is also increased at Advanced Maternal Age. Many obstetricians will recommend scheduling a c-section at 39 weeks gestation when she knows the baby is full term and is ready to safely enter the world.
Bonnie Jean Feldkamp is a writer and mother of three. If you liked this posting please follow her on Twitter @writerbonnie or like her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/WriterBonnie for more great info on Raising Kids.
Sources: Washington Post, March of Dimes