Women who give birth later in life do so for a number of reasons.
Some women don’t find the partner they want to have a family with until later in life.
Others want to make sure their careers are secure before having a baby.
There are also more women facing fertility issues that delay motherhood.
Pregnancy After 35 Has Minimal Risk, Study Says
Whatever the reason, more women than ever before are having babies after the age of 35.
In Australia 22% of women are birthing over the age of 35. In the United States this figure is around 15% and in the United Kingdom just over 20%.
Compare this with the 1970s, when about 1 in 100 women who gave birth were aged 35 or more.
Increasing maternal age has been blamed for the rise in medical interventions; recent research, however, shows age has little impact on driving up c-section rates.
Doctor Nails Reasons Behind 500% C-Section Increase Since The 70s explains this in more detail.
Does Age Matter When It Comes To Pregnancy?
No pregnant woman wants to hear the words ‘high risk pregnancy’ from her care provider.
If you are older than 35, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says you’re high risk, just because of your age.
Yet a study of 99,000 women over 35 has found age to be only a small risk factor in healthy women, compared with older women who had a pre-existing medical condition when they became pregnant.
The research, published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, looked at whether age posed a higher risk to the health of the women and their babies, rather than pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
The researchers looked at birth and medical records for women between the ages of 35 and 56 who had given birth in New South Wales Hospitals between 2006 and 2012.
For women who had pre-existing conditions or previous pregnancy complications, and already had other children, there was a higher risk of mother or baby dying, or experiencing serious health problems.
The findings showed women who had given birth before but didn’t have any pre-existing conditions or previous pregnancy complications were at lower risk for health problems.
What Does This Research Tell Us?
For decades, doctors have warned women that having babies after they reach 35 increases the risk of serious health complications for themselves and their babies.
You can read more about this in Over 35 And Having A Baby – What You Should Know.
This research highlights that age is a less significant factor compared with general health. Having a condition such as heart disease or diabetes is, in fact, more risky than maternal age alone.
How Does This Research Help?
Advanced maternal age can have an impact on your ability to conceive easily, and increases the risk of chromosomal abnormalities.
Women over 35 are also more likely to have or develop health conditions, which can increase the risk of pregnancy complications and lead to poor birth outcomes.
High blood pressure affects 10-20% of pregnant women over 35. By comparison, it affects 4-7% of pregnant women aged 20-25.
Gestational diabetes is three times more common in women older than 35.
On the other hand, women over 35 are more likely to have a better diet and exercise more regularly than when they were younger. They are also less likely to smoke, and probably drink less alcohol than they did in their younger years.
Women who defer motherhood until later can be reassured their age is less of a risk than previously believed.
For all women of childbearing age, it is critical to maintain optimal health before becoming pregnant.
Your baby will be less likely to experience complications, and there will be less risk of intervention during labour, which can increase the likelihood of complications in the short and long term.