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There are risks associated with advanced maternal age, defined by age 40 and older
Many women are delaying childbearing until their 30s and 40s, but there are risks associated with pregnancy and advanced maternal age.
In 1999, the average age of first time moms in this country was 24. By 2014, that number had climbed to 26. Data from the same year revealed 9.1 percent of first time moms were over age 35.
There are a number of reasons why women delay childbearing. Education, career development, waiting to meet the right person and finances are just a few of factors behind the maternal age increase. And while there are advantages (financial stability, maturity, work schedule flexibility), there are also health risks associated with delayed childbearing.
It is certainly possible for a woman to have a healthy baby in her 30s or even 40s, but getting pregnant may be more difficult and the complication risk higher.
A woman’s ability to reproduce begins to decline around age 32 and progresses naturally from there. Around age 37 the decline becomes more rapid, primarily due to decreasing egg quality and quantity. By age 44, the vast majority of women are no longer fertile.
Pregnancy in a woman of advanced maternal age is likely to be more difficult and all pregnancies in women over age 35 are considered to be high-risk. Factors that make pregnancy for older moms riskier include:
Obstetric management is extremely important for women of advanced maternal age. Women age 40 and over who wish to become pregnant should take the following steps:
Since all pregnancies after age 35 are considered high-risk, a number of special tests may be recommended including:
Women who have a high-risk pregnancy due to advanced maternal age should report any changes in their health or pregnancy to their OBGYN immediately. Staying vigilant and following recommended precautions help to keep both mom and baby safe.
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