Women becoming pregnant and giving birth after the age of 35 is more common all over the world than ever before. And while there are lots and lots of success stories, older Mums are becoming new Mums every day, when it comes to getting pregnant and then having a healthy pregnancy that results in a beautiful bundle of joy age is more than just a number; it does increase some risks and a woman over 35 will have to approach her pregnancy a little differently to her younger counterparts.
Getting Pregnant After 35: Fertility Issues
The first hurdle many women face when they decide to start a family after they are 35 is getting pregnant at all. These days 35 is an age that is considered in a different way than it was just a few decades ago and as the saying goes “the thirties have become the new twenties.” Many women in their mid thirties, or even in their forties, often feel that they are in the best physical shape of their lives.
Fertility however does begin to decline at 30, however often you hit the gym. The difficulty is that when a female is born her body already has all the eggs that she will need over the course of her life – around 1 million of them actually. At puberty many of them die however, leaving around 300,000 behind. After that the number declines every year and by the time a woman reaches her 30th birthday she will begin experiencing a decrease in fertility of about 3.5% every year from then on until menopause.
Another difficulty facing a woman over 35 who wants to become pregnant is the age of her eggs. Because they have actually been around since she was born her eggs are as old as she is and many will probably have aged too far to be viable. This aging process is the reason that women over 35 are at a higher risk of giving birth to an infant with birth defects and also for miscarriage.
This is not to say that becoming pregnant naturally after 35 is in any way impossible. The simple fact is though for many women is likely to take a little longer and the need for medical intervention – in the form of fertility drugs and IVF – is much more likely.
Folic Acid – An Older Mum to Be’s Best Friend
At this point a little substance called folic acid should be mentioned. Over the last decade or so it has become more and more apparent through research conducted all over the world just how important it is that women get enough of it before and during pregnancy.
Folic acid can prevent many birth defects and indeed since doctors all over the world began telling their patients to increase their folic acid intake just before conception and for every day of their pregnancy the incidence of birth defects has decreased every year in the industrialized world for well over a decade now even though there are more older women becoming pregnant.
Most prenatal vitamins contain folic acid but getting even more of it from your food as well is even better. Even an extra glass of orange juice a day can make a big difference and if you can add in a bowl of fortified cereal a couple of days a week as well it’s even better.
Being Pregnant after 35: General Health Considerations
Many of the women who delay starting a family until later in life are busy women with all kinds of commitments, especially at work. Once they do become pregnant looking after their own health to help make sure that Baby is healthy too is very important.
Following a healthy, sensible diet is something that it is very important for any Mum to Be to try to do but it is even more so if you are over 35. The changes do not have to be huge, just making sure that they get plenty of fruits and vegetables and pay more attention to what the food they consume actually contains and what benefit it has for them and their unborn baby. If they had a fast food habit in the past it’s time to ditch it. Most doctors recommend that pregnant women only need to add about 300 extra calories to their normal intake a day so it’s important to make every one of those extra calories count!
Exercise is also important. Even in this day and age there is still some confusion about exercise and pregnancy. Decades ago the wisdom was that pregnant women should avoid everything except the odd stroll around the park. Now the medical world knows better and realizes that exercise is actually still very important. This is not to say that any Mum to be should take on an Olympian style routine but consult with their doctor to decide just what is right for them and then stick to those recommendations as best they can, even if they are very busy at work.
An adequate amount of prenatal care is a must for women over 35 as well. Because women over 35 who become pregnant are at a higher risk for complications like gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre eclampsia it is crucial that they make it to every appointment that is scheduled for them and that they consult with their doctor immediately if they feel something is wrong.
Many of the complications that affect women over 35 can be treated if they are caught early enough so even if your concern seems silly call your doctor rather than adopting a wait and see attitude or scouring the Internet for an answer online.
Being Pregnant After 35: The Testing
Many women who become pregnant after the age of 35 are a little disturbed when their doctor begins talking about the need for genetic testing. They need not be though. Because all women of this age are at a higher risk for chromosomal abnormalities it really is standard procedure these days.
Usually Mums to be can choose between a test performed at 11 to 13 weeks into the pregnancy called chorionic villus sampling or a more traditional amniocentesis at 15 to 16 weeks. Both have about the same levels of accuracy but there is a slightly higher risk of miscarriage with CVS so a discussion with their doctor and their partner about which method they would rather use is something that a Mum to be over 35 should have.
Being Pregnant After 35: The Emotional Issues
The one big advantage that women over the age of 35 who become pregnant have over their younger counterparts is that they are usually a little more settled and stable in their lives and better equipped mentally to deal with the journey into parenthood that is ahead.
This is not to say that they are expected to be Superwoman though. Stress can, in itself contribute to pregnancy complications so it is still essential that older Mums to Be get lots of emotional support from those around them and try to adjust their busy lives so that stress is minimized as far as possible. In addition to eating right and exercising things like massage and yoga can be helpful to achieve this goal.
Becoming pregnant after 35 does have its added challenges, of that there is no doubt. However with the right medical care and some common sense there is no reason why older Mums to be cannot sail through their nine months of pregnancy with the same sense of optimism and excitement as younger women with the result being a happy, healthy baby and the beginning of an exciting new chapter of their lives.