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Age and its effect on Pregnancy


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    nlakshmi's Avatar
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    Age and its effect on Pregnancy

    If you're an older mum-to-be, you might be concerned about how age will affect your pregnancy and the birth of your baby. It doesn't help to see the medical term 'elderly primagravida' on your medical notes (meaning older, first time mother). You might even feel that extra tests and interventions are used because you are pregnant for the first time at an older-than-average age.


    Are there more older mothers now?

    We are definitely having babies later compared to our mothers and grandmothers. Birth statistics over the past 20 years show that all around the world women are delaying having a baby until their 30s or beyond. This is mostly because women are pursuing higher education and getting married later. More women are also choosing to settle in their careers before planning for a baby. As a result, more and more women are in their 30s by the time they feel ready to start a family.


    What effect does age have on fertility?

    Being 35 or over does raise certain important issues for women waiting to start a family. There is a gradual decrease in fertility after the age of 30, so it may take longer to conceive, or you may have to face problems of sub-fertility. Other medical and gynaecological conditions, such as endometriosis, may also affect conception. More pregnant women in this age group will have undergone fertility treatment than in younger age groups.


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    Re: Age and its effect on Pregnancy

    What effect does age have on pregnancy?

    In the past, an older mother used to mean a woman who already had a large family, and was in her fifth (or more) pregnancy. Multiple pregnancies often led to complications. Today older mothers are usually fit and well nourished - they have simply chosen to start their family later in life and many get their first pregnancy in their 30s.

    It is unfortunately true that simply by being older, you are more likely to already have a medical condition such as diabetes, hypertensive disorders or fibroids, before getting pregnant. These conditions can affect pregnancy and birth. Studies on the effect of age on childbirth also report an increase in the frequency of pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, pregnancy-induced diabetes , bleeding in the third trimester, and low lying placenta. Your maternity care may be influenced by your age whether this is your first or second pregnancy. Even fit and healthy women over the age of 35 have more ultrasound scans and more antenatal tests such as amniocentesis. This may be as much a reflection of the anxieties of the doctors as the real needs of you and your baby - so be ready to ask a few questions if you want a more low-key approach.



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    Re: Age and its effect on Pregnancy

    What are the advantages of an older pregnancy?

    You may have some physical and psychological benefits over younger mums-to-be. Women in their 30s or 40s tend to have healthier lifestyles and look after themselves better in terms of exercise and nutrition. Studies have shown that mature women have more positive perceptions of their bodies and understand them better. They are more able to tolerate the symptoms of pregnancy.. Older mothers are also more aware of the child-bearing process when compared to their younger counterparts.


    Can my age affect the baby?

    Older women run a greater risk of having a Down's syndrome baby. The rate is 1 in 400 at the age of 35, and goes up to 1 in 109 at the age of 40. When a woman is 45 the risk is 1 in 32 (compared with 1 in 1,500 at 25). There are other much rarer chromosomal abnormalities, such as Patau's syndrome and Edward's syndrome, which also increase in incidence with maternal age.

    Maternal serum screening and other tests can tell you what risk you have of carrying a baby with this kind of chromosomal abnormality. Tests like amniocentesis can provide a firm diagnosis. This allows a woman either to decide to terminate the pregnancy, or help her to prepare for the special needs her baby will have. Appropriate genetic counselling can help at this stage.

    The increased chances of chromosomal abnormalities contribute to a higher risk ofmiscarriage in older women. There is another small but serious risk to the babies of more mature mothers. For some unknown reason, more babies die in utero right at the end of pregnancy in this group of mothers - 1 in 440 pregnancies of women aged 35 or more, as opposed to 1 in 1000 for younger women.

    Because of these risks, doctors are often more vigilant of older mothers-to-be during their pregnancies and especially in the final weeks.Despite the increased risk with older mums-to-be, it's important to remember that most babies are fine, and except for the factor of chromosomal abnormalities, research suggests that the babies of older mothers are at no more risk of birth defects than the offspring of younger mothers.

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