Geriatric Pregnancy. Yup, that is what I was labelled when I was having my babies! What does that even mean? See, the thing is, although my body was dating itself chronologically my brain was still hanging out 10 yrs back. I was in complete denial that I was of “advanced maternal age”! Now, obviously I knew there were some statistical risks choosing to have babies in my mid 30’s. But I didn’t let that change the way I approached my pregnancies either. Timing needs to be right for everyone, and if that means having a baby in your thirties, then do it!
Why are women waiting?
Women are waiting longer and longer to start families now. In both Canada and the US it’s noted that there is a rise of women in their 30’s and early 40’s becoming pregnant and a decreasing trend of women in their 20’s getting pregnant. Why? Some speculate it could be due to educational and career goals/opportunities of women. Others will say it’s contraceptive advances, social and cultural shifts, economic uncertainty, or the advances in fertility treatments and assisted reproductive technologies. Or maybe it’s just life circumstance. Regardless, getting pregnant and giving birth to your baby is absolutely a miracle at ANY age!
Getting pregnant after age 35
Fertility does start to decline as we age, especially around the age of 35. When females are born, we have all the eggs we are ever going to have in our ovaries! We do not generate more eggs as we age. In fact, when we are born we have around 1-2 million eggs. By menopause we are down to around two hundred! Naturally as we get older the condition of our eggs will change too, affecting our fertility and outcomes. Other conditions also may play a factor in ability to become pregnant as we age including: endometriosis, tubal disease, fibroids or polyps.
There is screening that can be done to help identify possible risks that can be prevented/treated before becoming pregnant. As well as tests that can be completed in early pregnancy to determine higher risks. Because of these age related fertility changes, it is important to have open communication with your health care provider before getting pregnant and during your pregnancy. If you are between the age of 35 – 37 it is recommended that you are referred to a fertility specialist after trying unsuccessfully to conceive for 6 months, and to see a specialist sooner if you are over the age of 38.
What are the risks of getting pregnant at an advanced maternal age?
With the increasing number of women becoming pregnant at an advanced maternal age, there are certain risks that we need to be aware of and take into consideration. Does this mean that on your 35th birthday you suddenly become higher risk overnight? No. It just means it is that much more important to to talk about your pregnancy plans with your health care provider so that certain risks can be discussed. Some maternal risks of delayed childbearing include: increased risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancies, multiple births, preterm delivery, preeclampsia, hypertension, gestational diabetes, placental complications, intrauterine growth restriction and cesarean section. Whereas some fetal risks include: low birth rate, chromosomal abnormalities and non-genetic malformations.
It is important to note that many women over the age of 35 become pregnant and have healthy pregnancies and babies. So if you are planning to get pregnant in your late 30’s be aware of the possible risks, talk with your healthcare provider and take measures to stay as healthy as you can for you and your baby! …and Congratulations!