For many women looking to start a family, 35 can seem like a deadline. And while it’s true that conception becomes more difficult with age, it isn’t impossible.
“Age is not the only factor that matters when it comes to a healthy pregnancy,” explains Semhar Mahmud, MD, OB/GYN at Riddle Hospital. “There’s no need for women over 35 to rule out the idea of having a baby. It can be more difficult, but 35 isn’t the last straw for women who are looking to conceive.”
While pregnancy after age 35 is possible, it comes with a unique set of risks. Below, Dr. Mahmud explores the health risks for women who have pregnancies later in life, as well as tips to minimize these risks and prepare your body for a healthy pregnancy.
Pregnancy risks for women age 35 and older
It is possible to have a healthy pregnancy and baby after 35, but you should still be aware of the unique risks that tend to occur more often in later pregnancies, including:
- Fertility issues – It’s natural for a woman’s fertility to decline as she ages, as egg supply decreases with age. “Pregnancy is going to be harder for any women at 35 than it was for her at 25,” says Dr. Mahmud.
- Gestational diabetes – Women at any age can be affected by gestational diabetes, but the risk increases with age. This particular type of diabetes can be unhealthy for both mom and baby and potentially cause birth complications, as well as affect a woman’s heart health and future pregnancies.
- Delivering smaller babies – Women over age 40 have a higher risk of pre-term babies or babies with a lower birth weight. Though many smaller babies can go on to be healthy, some can have health problems later in life.
- An increased risk of genetic problems – Babies born to older mothers have a higher risk of genetic issues like Down syndrome. “Because there is an increased risk for issues like these, it’s not uncommon for women who have a later pregnancy to undergo genetic screenings to better determine their risk,” explains Dr. Mahmud.
- C-sections – Many babies are delivered via cesarean section, but women over 40 are more likely to deliver their babies this way as opposed to vaginally.
Preparing for pregnancy
The best way to ensure a healthy pregnancy is to have a healthy lifestyle. If you’re considering starting a family, make your health a priority by scheduling a preconception visit with your OB/GYN. They’ll discuss steps you can take for a healthy pregnancy including:
- Identifying a healthy body weight and working toward it.
- Controlling any pre-existing medical issues.
- Following a healthy diet. In addition, talk to your doctor about what prenatal vitamins, like folic acid, might be right for you.
- Maintaining or beginning an exercise routine.
- Scheduling any necessary screenings or genetic tests.
Although age is an important factor when it comes to your health, it is not the only one. A preconception visit will provide you with a comprehensive overview of your health, and allow your OB/GYN to address any questions or concerns you might have.