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Waiting Until Later: What to Know About Pregnancy Later in Life

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Today, more women are waiting to become pregnant with their first child. According to the CDC, about 20 percent of women are postponing the birth of their first child until after the age of 35.

But as women are waiting, they happen to be increasing health risks associated with having a child after the age of 35. While the increased risks do not mean that women should not wait, it means women need to be aware of the risks associated with pregnancy later in life. Health risks for women who become pregnant over the age of 35 include:

  • Fertility problems for one-third of couples in which the woman is over 35. 
  • Gestational diabetes is more likely to occur.
  • Increased risk of developing high blood pressure.
  • Higher risk of babies born with a low birth weight.
  • Increased risk of pregnancy loss.

Though the possibility of risks will be higher, a healthy pregnancy is still very possible after the age of 35.

How waiting to become pregnant affects a woman's health.

Prenatal Care

As women age, the chance of having a baby with birth defects increases. However, that does not mean that a woman in her 30s or 40s cannot give birth to a healthy baby. If a woman does become pregnant at a later age, regular appointments with a physician or midwife are crucial in order to monitor the health of the baby and mother. They will likely suggest certain medical tests to check the baby’s health.

First Trimester Screen

One of the routine tests that is conducted is the first trimester screening. This test is an evaluation that combines a blood sample from the mother and an evaluation of the baby through ultrasound to determine if there is a risk for chromosomal abnormalities. Results will identify genetic and cardiac disorders. Approximately 85 percent of babies that are affected by abnormalities will be identified from the first trimester screening.

A Healthy Diet

When a woman becomes pregnant, keeping the baby and herself healthy should be her main priority. To keep the baby healthy, the mother must first keep herself healthy. To prevent birth defects, folic acid should be a staple in the diet of a woman who wants to become pregnant. Folic acid-rich foods include leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, beans and citrus fruits. Another way to consume the daily recommended amount of folic acid is to take vitamins. Some multivitamins contain the recommended amount, but additional folic acid-only supplements are available.

For a woman who may already be pregnant, weight gain may be viewed negatively but it is essential to a healthy pregnancy. A woman only needs about 300 extra calories a day while pregnant to support the baby’s development and growth. Gradually putting on weight is the healthiest way to gain weight while pregnant. It’s important not to gain too much weight during pregnancy as it is possible to develop high blood pressure or gestational diabetes. However, never attempt to lose weight while pregnant.

Pre-existing Conditions

If you are over the age of 35 and wish to become pregnant but have a pre-existing medical condition, it is important to get your health in check before pregnancy. If you are already receiving treatment for a pre-existing medical condition, talk to your OB/GYN about becoming pregnant, as your treatment plan may need to be modified.

Some women must take medication to manage their condition in order to stay healthy throughout pregnancy. Stopping the use of medication could be riskier than continuing the use the medication under close doctor supervision. Some medicines, including prescription, over-the-counter and supplements, which are taken during pregnancy, can cause serious birth defects. Consult your OB/GYN to determine what medications are safe to consume during pregnancy.

If you are considering becoming pregnant and are age 35 or above, find an experienced OB/GYN near you to help with all of your women’s health needs.

Cedar RapidsThe team of professional family physicians at UnityPoint Clinic in Cedar Rapids offer comprehensive women’s health services that are individualized for each of our patients. Learn more about what our clinics have to offer.Des MoinesTalk to an OB today at UnityPoint Clinic in Des Moines about your reproductive health and develop a health plan customized to your needs.Fort DodgeExperts at UnityPoint Clinic in Fort Dodge can develop a health care plan for women who plan to become pregnant. Discover how we can help every step of the way.PeoriaThe team of professional family doctors at UnityPoint Clinic in Peoria offer comprehensive women’s health services that are individualized for each patient. See how we can provide specialized health care plans for women conceiving over age 35.Quad CitiesUnityPoint Clinic in the Quad Cities has a skilled staff of OB/GYNs to help women who are considering becoming pregnant. Call today to request an appointment and create a health care plan that meets your needs.Sioux CityThe primary care doctors at UnityPoint Clinic in Sioux City pay close attention to women’s health needs. Our professional staff strive to provide the best services to our patients.WaterlooUnityPoint Clinic family medicine doctors in Waterloo provide accessible, affordable health care for women. Our devoted staff provide personalized care for each woman. Check out why UnityPoint Clinic - OB/GYN in Waterloo is the destination for your women’s health needs.