What is Advanced Maternal Age?

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Pregnancy Over 35 = Advanced Maternal Age


The age of first time mothers continues to climb as more women are waiting to have a baby. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics the average age for a first-time mother has increased from age 21.4 in 1970 to 26.6 in 2016 – that’s an average increase of five-years in the last four decades. Many women are waiting even longer – postponing pregnancy until their mid-30s and older.

“There’s no doubt women are waiting longer to have their first child,” shares Steve Pedron, MD, UnityPoint Clinic – Maternal Fetal Medicine medical director. “There are many reasons a woman may wait – it may be culturally, professionally or financially motivated. It’s such a personal choice.”

As a maternal fetal medicine (MFM) specialist Dr. Pedron specializes in caring for expectant mothers and their unborn baby either who may have health concerns before birth or after delivery.

“Advanced maternal age is clinically described as age 35 and older,” explains Dr. Pedron. “Historically this term started because of the increasing risk a woman has for genetic disorders as they age. This is the age when testing is recommended for screening.”

Dr. Pedron contends that advanced maternal age really isn’t as important as it used to be. What really matters is the individual health of the mother.

“There are perfectly healthy 45-year-olds that are able to sustain a pregnancy,” says Dr. Pedron. “Whereas there are young women who have multiple health concerns. They may have diabetes, obesity, lupus and other health concerns, which would put them at greater risk for complications during pregnancy.”

If it’s possible, Dr. Pedron suggests that women identify any health issues they may have before they decide to get pregnant. For example, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, losing weight and exercising more before they conceive. Excellent maternal health and fitness is often associated with better maternal outcomes.

“If you want to have a baby it’s best to fix the issues before you get pregnant – no matter the woman’s age - if that’s possible,” says Dr. Pedron. “I know real patients have real problems. If the issue isn’t fixable and the woman is pregnant we will do our best to treat the issue to get her through the pregnancy. Same goes for the baby – if the infant has a problem - we will work to address the issue. I am here to help her have a healthy pregnancy no matter her age.”