Watch Out for Pregnancy Pitfalls After Age 40
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 and ethical issues (not to mention 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.
Standard medical teaching indicates a higher risk for pregnancy complications in women over the age of 35. 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
As age increases beyond 35, so does each of these risks. Nevertheless, proper preparation before pregnancy and early prenatal care can help assure the best chances of healthy outcomes.
There is nothing magical about the risks at specific ages, such as 35 or 40. Risks of genetic abnormalities and miscarriage rise progressively throughout a person's reproductive years. As a woman ages, it is more likely that she will have acquired a medical illness. However, this is a population statistic (ie, a general trend); many individual women over 40 are very healthy and have much less risk than much younger women.
Last reviewedJune 2011by Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.