It’s estimated that 20% of U.S. women are having their first baby after the age of 35. With the wait comes increased risk that they will not have a healthy pregnancy. You may know many women who become mothers in their late 30s. You may be one yourself. We checked in with Dr. Suzanne Hall, an Ob-Gyn, to talk about the dreaded term “advanced maternal age.”
Dr. Hall not only counsels women in her practice every day about the risks associated with later age pregnancies, she experienced one herself as a first-time mother at age 39.
In terms of preparation, experts recommend that women educate themselves prior to conception suggest that we:
Understand the increased risk of genetic disorders (such as chromosomal abnormalities) and tests you may consider having during pregnancy to detect them. Meeting with a genetic counselor (if you suspect or have a genetic predisposition) should help figure out which tests should be administered.
Be diligent about any existing medical condition (like high blood pressure, diabetes, thyroid disease, obesity) and make sure that it is in a stable, controlled state before considering pregnancy. Discuss pregnancy with your doctor and how it might affect your current medical condition.
- Do take prenatal vitamins with folic acid before you get pregnant to help prevent neural tube defects, particularly Spina Bifida.
Hall says she also knew that in her own case (as well as women in general over the age of 35) the risk of a chromosomal abnormalities (resulting in birth defects such as Down syndrome) in pregnancy are higher.
Women can be screened (to determine their individual risk(s)) during their pregnancy using blood tests and diagnostic tests, like amniocentesis.
For Dr. Hall, her role(s) as both doctor and mother have given her a new perspective on later age pregnancies.