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Over Age 35? Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy!

January 27, 2012

Since 1980, the number of women giving birth after 35 has tripled, and the number of women over 40 has quadrupled. With the median marriage age in America rising and with more and more women achieving significant career milestones before deciding to have a family, doctors are seeing a shift in the age range of their patients.

As a high-risk obstetrical nurse in Boston I care for hundreds of women with the diagnosis of “Advanced Maternal Age” (usually defined as age 35 or older at the time of delivery) who have had an uncomplicated pregnancy. Of course, pregnancy in older women poses several risks but learning about these risks and minimizing them can contribute to a healthy pregnancy.

Gestation Diabetes Mellitus

Gestational diabetes (GDM) is a condition that occurs during pregnancy and usually resolves postpartum. The likelihood of GDM is increased in women over 35 and usually occurs midway through the pregnancy (expecting mothers are tested between 26-28 weeks gestation). If diagnosed with GDM moms are at increased risk for having a baby with a high birth weight. Once diagnosed, this condition can be managed by working closely with  an endocrinologist. Making dietary changes or taking insulin when indicated can manage GDM, therefore, screening all expecting moms is essential during pregnancy.


Expectant mothers over age 35 are also at an increased risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure. Careful monitoring of your blood pressure is important. Pregnant women with high blood pressure are at increased risk for developing preeclampsia (high blood pressure + protein in the urine). The only way to treat a mom with severe preeclampsia is delivery, despite the gestation age. Diagnosing and treating high blood pressure is easier if you are diligent about attending regular appointments with your doctor.

Chromosomal Abnormalities

Women over 35 are at increased risk for chromosomal abnormalities, though this isn’t news to anyone! Technology has come so far in the past decade that you doctor will discuss ALL your options. This includes first trimester screening testing, Chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis (if needed or desired).

Cesarean Section

Older mothers also have a higher likelihood of giving birth via cesarean section. The jury is still out on the actual cause, but it could be likely to the lower threshold obstetricians have when caring for older women. This increased intervention, along with the increased risk of placenta previa, need for Pitocin, premature delivery, hypertension and GDM could all be contributing factors and seems like the one risk factor that is less likely to control.

Fortunately, obstetric medicine is keeping pace with these higher risk pregnancies, and many conditions or difficulties a woman may experience during her pregnancy can be mitigated with good pre-natal care. Visiting your doctor frequently, and monitoring your own health and wellness during pregnancy improves your chances for a healthy pregnancy, despite your age!


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