With all the advances in medical care and technology, it is safer today than ever before for most women in later age to become pregnant. There are still some increased risks associated with later-age pregnancy that you should know if you fit into this category. These complications can be categorized as follows:
• Medical illnesses affecting the mother and fetus
• Genetic abnormalities and birth defects
• Pregnancy loss
• Complications of labor and delivery
As age increases beyond 35, so does each of these risks. Nevertheless, proper preparation before pregnancy and early prenatal care can help assure the best outcome. Certain medical conditions occur more frequently in pregnant women over 40, including diabetes, high blood pressure, and thyroid disorders. Fortunately, these conditions can be diagnosed and controlled prior to pregnancy, and many of the medications used to treat these disorders can be safely used during pregnancy.
As women age, their eggs do not divide as well, and genetic problems can occur. The most common genetic disorder is Down syndrome. Down syndrome is caused by the presence of an additional chromosome that causes mental retardation and defects of the heart and other organs. While the risk is still relatively low, it does go up significantly at age 35 and older.
Pregnancy loss also increases with advancing age. Approximately 50% of early (first trimester) miscarriages are due to genetic abnormalities of the fetus. Overall, pregnant women experience miscarriage 15% of the time. After age 40, this incidence nearly doubles. There is also a moderate increase in stillbirths after age 40 due to a combination of medical complications affecting pregnancy and lethal birth defects.
Complications of labor and delivery that are seen more frequently in women over 40 include:
• Premature labor
• Premature separation of the placenta resulting in hemorrhage
• Placenta previa
• Meconium-stained amniotic fluid
• Postpartum hemorrhage
As a result, the rate of Cesarean section is considerably higher in this age group. Make an appointment to see your doctor before you get pregnant. A thorough evaluation prior to pregnancy will allow your doctor to give you an idea of your individual risk. However, for the majority of women over age 40, early prenatal care and good health habits will result in a healthy baby and a happy mother. © Womenfitness (www.womenfitness.net)