Pregnancy after 35
Dr. Laurie Erickson is the Program Director of the Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency Program at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center.
Question: I've heard it is dangerous to have a baby in your late 30s, is this true?
Answer: As more women choose to delay having children, childbirth after age 35 is becoming increasingly common. While most women who conceive after the age of 35 have a normal, safe pregnancy, there are many factors that should be considered when deciding the right time to start a family.
A woman’s fertility begins to decrease in her early to mid-30s. As a result, it may take longer to become pregnant while actively trying. With a reduction in fertility comes an increased likelihood that getting pregnant may require infertility treatments. In addition to greater difficulty becoming pregnant, having a child after age 35 brings added risks, which gradually increase each year.
One of the most common risks associated with pregnancy after 35 is an increase in first trimester miscarriage since the quality of a woman’s eggs slowly diminishes with age. This poor egg quality also is linked to an array of fetal chromosomal abnormalities, most notably Down syndrome. Statistically speaking, the risk of having a baby with any chromosomal abnormality is about one in 132 for women at age 35. That risk jumps to one in 40 at age 40; one in 12 at age 45. Noninvasive genetic testing to detect chromosomal abnormalities early in pregnancy has improved greatly and is now universally offered to all patients.
Other conditions that women age 35 and older have an increased risk of developing during pregnancy include: diabetes, high blood pressure, stillbirth and the need for delivery by cesarean section.
These increased risks make it very important that women over the age of 35 receive early and consistent prenatal care in order to detect and minimize these risks.
Speak with your doctor if you are 35 or older and are planning to become pregnant. Understanding the potential risks and taking steps to prevent them is the best way to ensure a healthy pregnancy.