Many of today's women are delaying childbearing until later in life for a variety of reasons, including career choices, financial status, late marriage, and remarriage. In addition, successful treatment of previously infertile women over 40 is occurring. In fact, reports indicate successful pregnancies in women over age 60.

While such extreme cases raise complex social, ethical issues, and medical issues, the fact of the matter is that more women over age 40 are choosing to start a new family or add to their present one. But what risks do these women incur? Let's examine the facts regarding pregnancy in this age group and strategies to reduce the risks.

Although women often have a healthy pregnancy later in life, there is a higher risk for pregnancy complications. These complications can be categorized as follows:

  • Medical illnesses affecting the mother and fetus
  • Genetic abnormalities and birth defects
  • Pregnancy loss
  • Complications of labor and delivery

A higher risk of pregnancy complications can start as early as age 35. Nevertheless, proper preparation before pregnancy and early prenatal care can help assure the best chances of healthy outcomes.

Age 35 is not a clear line in the sand. Risks of genetic abnormalities and miscarriage rise progressively throughout a woman's reproductive years. This is because the woman's eggs age as she does.