Pregnancy at 40 and Beyond – Risks and Precautions

It is more difficult for women to conceive as they age. Pregnancy after 40 also increases the possibility of miscarriage and Down syndrome for the baby. The spontaneous miscarriage rate for women in their 20’s is 5-10%, but this number increases to 33% for women at age 40 (SCCRM). Even so, there are programs helping women in their 40’s conceive, carry full-term, and give birth to healthy babies. It’s actually becoming more common today than ever. Click here to learn about one such program that is getting great results.

Medical Risks

Aside from the conceiving difficulties and increased miscarriage rate, older women may also go through medical complications during their pregnancy. There is a higher risk of getting hypertension and gestational diabetes. Placenta previa is another risk, where the placenta is placed in the lower uterus instead of the upper. These medical conditions may increase the need for getting a C-section instead of a natural childbirth.

Pregnancy after 40 is further complicated if the woman is obese or has other health problems. Even if she does conceive, there is a possibility that the DNA inside her eggs have been damaged. Past the age of 38, a woman is far more likely to produce a child who has genetic disabilities or Down syndrome. As a women ages, her eggs are older and thus at greater risk of abnormal chromosome division. For example, the chance of a Down syndrome child is 1:400 for a 35 year old. At 45, the risk rises to 1:35 (Mayo Clinic). Although most Down syndrome babies are born to those under 35 due to the increase number of births at that age compared to older.

Precautions

Despite numerous risks associated with pregnancy after 40, there are still plenty of women who choose to go ahead with having a baby. The key to having a successful birth during older age is by being aware of all the risks associated with this type of pregnancy and following a program that will keep you fit and healthy during pregnancy to increase your chance of having a successful pregnancy. Visit a certified midwife or physician to discuss all the possibilities of pregnancy after 40.

Taking a health history test is important for assessing any problems that may potentially affect your pregnancy. The doctor may take blood samples to test for rubella immunity and chronic conditions. The person’s social habits will also need to be reviewed, such as their nutrition, alcohol consumption, and smoking habits. If the woman is not living healthily, it can increase the chance of complications during pregnancy. A doctor may recommend to you stop smoking and drinking if you are thinking about conceiving.

Meeting with a genetics counselor is another important step before getting pregnant and those looking for information on pregnancy over 40. This counselor will explain and calculate the genetic risks that come from your family history and maternal age. Staying fit and eating healthily during pregnancy is advantageous for any pregnant woman, but it is even more beneficial past the age of 40. If a woman is overweight, the doctor may recommend weight loss before trying to conceive.

Women should understand that some risks could be avoided, while others cannot be altered. For example, an obese person has a greater chance of developing gestational diabetes, so precautions should be taken for losing weight. Chromosomal abnormality risks cannot be altered, since it is related to the woman’s genes and age.

For the majority of cases, having a child during the late 30’s and early 40’s is uncomplicated and safe. However, women should be aware of the risks before making this decision. Although there are risks for postponing mother hood until later in life, many women such as those in Lisa Olson’s program are successfully conceiving and getting pregnant well into their 40’s.