Pregnancy Risk After Age 35

Patient

Q: How old is too old to have a baby. I am 36 years old.

Doctor

A:   I do understand your concern. Women in their thirties may experience a decline in fertility, furthermore, complications during pregnancy are more common when women reach age 35. These problems may be due to a decrease in the number and health of the eggs to be ovulated, fewer number of eggs and changes in the hormones resulting in altered ovulation. While advances in medical care can help women over age 35 have safer pregnancies than in the past, infertility and pregnancy complications for this age group are higher than for younger women. The risk of giving birth to a child with a birth defect does increase as the mother's age increases. Women at the age of 35 and above are considered to be at high risk for chromosomal abnormalities. Approximately 1 in 1,400 babies born from women in their 20's have Down syndrome; it increases to about 1 in 100 babies born with Down syndrome from women in their 40s. Studies have also shown an increased risk of miscarriage as the age of the mother increases.
If you are planning to have a child, I would advise that you make regular appointments with your health-care provider, take prenatal vitamins (folic acid) a month before attempting to conceive, limit caffeine consumption, avoid alcohol and smoking. Because you are more likely to have certain problems during pregnancy, your doctor may order certain tests to check for well-being of the baby. Along with all these tests, you may also be required to undergo appropriate genetic counseling, including a detailed discussion regarding the risks and benefits of the procedures.

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