Many women today get caught up in the corporate world and wake up one morning, realizing they have been delaying motherhood. It is not unusual to see women over 40 having children. What are the risks to the mother when having a child late in life? What extra step does a mother over 40 need to take to maintain a healthy pregnancy?
Physical Risks to an Older Mother
A woman in her 20’s and 30’s is usually at the peak of her health. Aging issues such as vitamin deficiencies, heart disease, and high blood pressure are all less likely to affect an expectant mother in this age range. When women start to reach their 40’s the risk factors for these diseases and many others become much higher.
An older pregnant woman who chooses to have a child is usually classified as a high-risk pregnancy because of the variety of physical ailments, which become more prominent in her age group. I remember clearly my doctor warning me about trying to get pregnant after 39 and how the risks were off the charts for me and my baby.
Other issues that may arise during pregnancy for a mother in her 40’s include: anemia, varicose veins, cancer, muscle pains, uterine fibroids, diabetes, miscarriages, stillbirth, and cesarean delivery.
Having a Healthy Baby
Pregnant moms in their 40’s who are pregnant will have an uphill battle with chronic health conditions and maintaining necessary lifestyle limitations while pregnant. Most physicians advise women planning a pregnancy late in life to start adding folic acid and a prenatal vitamin to their daily routine, before trying to get pregnant.
Obstetricians treating mothers-to-be over the age of 40 highly recommend you should not drink caffeine or smoke at all. Maintaining a diet that is high in nutritional foods, vitamins and minerals is also essential months before you conceive.
Specialty Pregnancy and Monitoring Tests
It is usually much more expensive for a mother in her 40’s to have a baby than it is for younger moms-to-be. Ultrasounds will be done very frequently to ensure the baby is healthy and still moving around enough.
A quad marker screen is usually done to identify problems with the baby’s brain, neural tissues, central nervous system, and spinal cord. This test also identifies Down syndrome which is more prevalent in women over the age of 35.
An amniocentesis involves inserting a thin needle into the amniotic fluid. This will test for birth defects such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, sickle cell disease, and neural tube defects or Spinal bifida. This test is often performed on older expectant mothers.
Having a child can be one of the greatest joys a couple will experience in their life, but it is important for older women to be aware of the increased risk to their life and that of their child if they choose to get pregnant later in life. Often times, the risks to the mother are great and other options such as adoption or surrogacy may be a better choice to maintain the health of the mother.
The more you know, the better decisions you will make in creating a family!