More women than ever today are delaying pregnancy, and statistics show that the average age when women have their first babies continues to rise. The Women’s OBGYN Medical Group of Santa Rosa provides parents with the information and guidance needed to prepare as an individual and as a family, particularly important during the preconception process for women over the age of 35.
According to latest National Vital Statistics Reports women aged 40–44 experienced the highest birth rate since 1966 (10.5 births per 1,000 women in 2013). Since 2000, the rate for women in their early 40s has risen steadily by 2 percent per year. The birth rate for women aged 45–49 (which includes births to women aged 50 and over) also rose, the first such increase since 2008. Ultimately the data reveals that there were more than nine times as many first births to women aged 35 and older than there were just four decades ago. Perhaps ironically, among women under the age of 30, and even more so – those under 20, first births have actually declined.
Although there are risks associated with waiting to have children, one study conducted in the UK showed that children born to mothers who are over 40 actually tend to have higher IQs and a greater vocabulary. Those children were also less likely to require hospitalization or have accidents. It was theorized that older parents are likely more vigilant and better able to help children avoid dangers. Other studies on the subject showed that women who delay motherhood actually live longer than those who give birth at younger ages. And studies consistently show that older mothers are typically better educated than young mothers.
Pregnancy and Childbirth Considerations for Older Women
After the age of 35 it may take longer for women to get pregnant due to a decrease in quantity and quality of eggs, and an overall reduction in the rate of fertilization. The chance of having twins also increases with age, particularly when the use of assisted reproductive technologies such as in vitro fertilization comes into play. Older women are more likely to develop gestational diabetes which can complicate the development of the fetus if not monitored closely by an OBGYN healthcare provider. Gestational diabetes predominately affects older women and occurs only during pregnancy. Research also points to an increased likelihood of high blood pressure developing during pregnancy. The chances of low birth weight and a premature birth are also typically greater among older mothers.
Pregnancy-related complications that might lead to a C-section delivery is statistically more prevalent in older mothers. The risk of chromosome abnormalities such as Down syndrome is also higher. And finally, the risk of pregnancy loss due to miscarriage and stillbirth as a result of a pre-existing medical condition or fetal chromosomal abnormalities also increases as women get older.
Preparing Before Conception Helps to Ensure a Healthy Pregnancy
The choices older mothers-to-be make before conception can have a lasting effect on the health of both the mother and the baby. Parents who are considering having a baby – no matter what age – are encouraged to schedule an appointment with an OBGYN physician or certified nurse midwife to take advantage of expert guidance from the start. Topics to discuss with your physician prior to becoming pregnant include:
• Alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use
• Birth control
• Diet and exercise
• Environmental concerns
• Family histories and Genetics
• Medical problems/concerns
• Medications and Vitamins
Talking to a healthcare provider about overall health and lifestyle changes that might improve the chances for a healthy pregnancy as well as concerns about fertility or pregnancy will help get prospective parents off on the right foot. An OBGYN healthcare specialist will be able to advise parents about steps that can be taken to increase the odds of conception as well as options if there is trouble conceiving. Continuing prenatal visits will allow the healthcare provider to keep an eye on both the mother’s and the baby’s health.
Staying Healthy During Pregnancy
All expectant mothers require more folic acid, calcium, iron, vitamin D as well as other essential nutrients. A healthy diet is imperative as is a daily prenatal vitamin – commencing a few months before conception – is also recommended. Regular physical activity can help increase energy levels and improve overall health during pregnancy. It can also help prepare for labor and childbirth by increasing stamina and muscle strength. Avoiding alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs is imperative, while any medications or supplements need to be reviewed by an OBGYN healthcare provider in advance.
Prenatal testing for chromosomal abnormalities is also something older women may want to consider. Noninvasive prenatal tests include a blood test that scans fetal DNA in the maternal bloodstream to determine whether the baby is at risk of certain specific chromosomal abnormalities. Diagnostic tests such as chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis provide additional information about the baby’s chromosomes or the risk of specific chromosomal abnormalities, but also carry a slight risk of miscarriage. A healthcare provider can help parents weigh the risks and benefits.
About Women’s OBGYN Medical Group
Planning for a pregnancy can be an exciting and stressful time. Women’s OB/GYN Medical Group excels at maximizing mother and baby’s health and helping new parents to achieve the best experience throughout the process of giving the gift of life. Our provider team of expert OB/GYN physicians, certified nurse midwives, family nurse practitioners, and medical assistants provides unmatched care to patients in our region. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is both efficient and caring; creating a pleasant and comforting clinic experience for our patients. As women proudly serving women, we understand your needs and expectations. For more information visit our website or call (707) 579-1102.