As time passes, more and more women seem to be starting families in their 30's rather than 20's. How does this trend affect the female reproductive system? Are there certain considerations for mother and/or baby during the pregnancy?
“Advanced maternal age” is a term used for women who have their 35th birthday prior to delivery of a child. As we all know, 35 is not an “advanced age” when considering the average lifespan, but may begin to push the envelope when talking about our female biological time clock. Why is that?
The March of Dimes stated that women usually have a decrease in fertility starting in their early 30's, and oftentimes it takes women in their mid-30's longer to conceive compared to women in their 20's. This is because older women ovulate (release an egg from the ovaries) less frequently/regularly. Also, some health conditions like fibroids (benign tumors in the uterus) or blocked fallopian tubes may occur over time and affect the chances of conception at an advanced maternal age.
At this age, are there any additional risks for the baby? The older a women gets, the greater the risk of certain birth defects involving chromosomes (the genetic structure of cells). The most common chromosomal abnormality seen is Down syndrome. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), a woman’s risk for having a baby with Down syndrome increases with age:
At age 25: 1 in 1,250
At age 30: 1 in 1,000
At age 40: 1 in 400
At age 45: 1 in 30
At age 49: 1 in 10
Affecting the mother and baby are other risks like pregnancy-induced hypertension and gestational diabetes, which have an increased tendency with later pregnancies. Preventative measures like diet and low-stress exercises are recommended along with regular check-ups with your health care provider.
Despite the ever-present list of risks associated with advanced maternal age pregnancies, today one in five women in the U.S. has her first child after age 35 and most are healthy pregnancies with healthy babies (ASRM, 2003).