Over 35 and pregnant

For reasons ranging from career aspirations to late marriages, more and more women are delaying pregnancy well into their 30s and beyond. What is heartening is that they are delivering healthy babies and enjoying not just motherhood but also their pregnancy. So if you are over 35 and pregnant, you've no reason to fret.

Misconceptions about delivering post 35
1. I will have only a C-section: "The fact is that even at the age of 40 or 42 women have delivered vaginally (normal delivery). The risk of C-section is high beyond 35 but is not certain," feels Dr Hema Shah, Head of Gynaecology, Suyog nursing home.

2. I will have a malformed baby: Not all children born to late mothers are deformed
or have abnormalities. Dr Atul Ganatra, Coordinator, Department of Gynaecological endoscopy, Fortis hospital- Mulund, says, "The risk of abnormality in the child born to a mother beyond the age of 30 is 1: 100 and beyond 40 is 1:80". Even though the risk ratio increases with age, the odds are still in your favour!

3. I will not lose the weight that I put on: When a woman gets pregnant, it is but natural that she gains weight. This weight gain during pregnancy, can easily be lost if the woman has a healthy pre-pregnancy weight and does proper pre and post natal exercises, along with breastfeeding!

4. I will have diabetes/blood pressure: The risk of gestational diabetes and eclampsia (pregnancy related blood pressure) is pretty high in late pregnancies but if you have incorporated some kind of physical activity in your pre-pregnancy phase, the risk is definitely lowered.

Essentially, if you have a healthy lifestyle, diet and activity pattern and healthy pre-pregnancy weight (Body Mass Index in the range of 25-29), the journey for you may not be much to worry about.

Tests you should undergo
Dr Girija Sudarshan, Head of Gynaecology, Omkar Hospital, Mumbai and Dr Ganatra suggest the following tests as mandatory for pregnant women post 35
- Nuchal translucency scan at 12 weeks to test for down syndrome

- Triple marker test at 16 weeks to classify risk for chromosomal abnormalities and neural tube defects

- Foetus anomaly scan at 20 weeks to check that the growth of baby's organs and the uterine health is normal

- Foetal echocardiograph (done as per doctor's advice) to keep a check on the baby's heart health as cardiac defects are one of the most common birth defects.

Diet for a late pregnancy
The woman has to focus particularly on her folate intake. "5 mg Folic acid supplement, 2 months prior to conception should be continued at least till the end of first trimester. It reduces the incidence of neural tube defects from 4% to 1%," says Dr Ganatra. Folic acid can also be found in natural foods such as pulses, spinach, ladies finger, avocado, sunflower seeds etc. Eating for two during pregnancy does not mean a woman has to consume double the amount of food. An additional of only 300 Kcal is required to sustain a healthy pregnancy. Have a balanced diet consisting of whole grains, low fat dairy, fruits, veggies and fluids.

Lifestyle changes for a healthy pregnancy
- Remain stress free

- Avoid outside food at least for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy

- Make sure you do regular antenatal exercise

- Seek proper medical advice from experts when you are in doubt

- Call the doctor when there is an emergency

While Dr Ganatra and Dr Shah feel that the tendency of risk and complications increase beyond 35, Dr Girija Sudarshan feels that a woman should complete her second pregnancy before 35 as she will not have the physical and emotional strength to meet her growing child's demands if she delays it further.

However, if you take all the necessary precautions, there is nothing that should tamper with the good news. With the latest medical equipment, procedures and medical experts' guidance, you can definitely have a happy, safe and a healthy pregnancy even if you are 35. Go ahead, enjoy your pregnancy!

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