You might be wondering does age matter when it comes to having a baby? Not so long ago, it was typical for a woman to marry and start a family shortly after graduation. Of course, life expectancy was shorter than it is today. For a woman to bear her babies before the age of 30 was the norm. In the 21st century, many if not most females of childbearing age opt to begin their families later in life. Today, it’s not unusual for a woman to start a family at age 30, 35 or even 40. Are there added health risks for older first-time moms? Sure there are. But many of these risks can be minimized.
Why women delay motherhood
College and career are the top two reasons modern women put off childbearing until later in life. No longer are females expected to take the “mommy track” in lieu of running a successful business or exploring one or more vocations.
When people say things like “forty is the new thirty,” they may be referring to the fact that modern women are in no particular hurry to mature and settle down. Plenty of younger women choose to spend their 20s and even 30s exploring grand adventures and enjoying their autonomous life.
According to Fit Pregnancy magazine, women who become pregnant in their 30s are generally more established in their careers than women who have their first baby in their 20s. Women in their 40s may be less worried about financially supporting a new family than a women who is much younger.
Does age matter?
Not long ago, the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of the University of Wuerzburg conducted a five-year study that compared the pregnancy outcomes of older women with their younger counterparts. Study results showed increased incidence of hypertension, preeclampsia, and gestational diabetes in first-time mothers who were over the age of 40, reports the National Institutes of Health. First-time moms of advanced age are also likelier to suffer thrombosis and/or require an extended post delivery hospital stay, whether they give birth vaginally or via Cesarean section.
Another factor that older moms need to be aware of involves chromosomal “mistakes,” explains Richard J. Paulson, MD, director of the University of Southern California Fertility Program in Los Angeles. Paulson notes that younger women have fresher eggs and therefore a lower risk of having a Downs Syndrome baby than older mothers.
The American Congress of Obstetricians & Gynecologists notes that female fertility begins to wane at around age 32. Every year afterward, a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant decrease until she reaches menopause.
Shoshana Bennett, PhD is a pregnancy and postpartum psychologist in San Francisco, California. She explains that age may not be as much of a deciding factor as physicians and society once thought.
“Age and maturity do not always rise proportionally, and some women in their early 40s may be healthier than their 20-something counterparts, thanks to excellent lifestyle habits. Everything depends on the woman’s health, energy, personality and perspective on life.”
Minimizing the risk of pregnancy after age 35
The NIH explains that although older women do have higher incidences of things like gestational diabetes and pregnancy-related blood pressure problems, these risks can be lessened by following a few simple tips. As long as pre-existing medical conditions are addressed prior to conception, and expectant mothers adhere to a strict schedule of prenatal checkups, risks to the lives of mother and baby decrease exponentially. Additionally, a healthful diet, folic acid and vitamin supplements, and delivery in a perinatal birthing center can go a long way toward ensuring the good health of an older new mom and her baby.
A woman who is fit and healthy stands a better chance of enjoying a happy pregnancy and uneventful delivery, no matter what her age. For older first-time mothers, a fit body, healthy lifestyle, and good diet are even more imperative.
One thing that may be harder for older new mothers is getting back into shape after delivery. Postpartum fitness expert, Lindsay Brin, says that younger women typically regain their pre-pregnancy shape more quickly than women over the age of 35. Skin changes may also be less pronounced in younger women, due to superior elasticity and less-stretched fascia beneath the skin surface. According to fitness specialists, women who use workouts and other exercise plans after delivery tend to get back into shape and stay that way than women who are less active after having their new baby.
If you are an older woman who wishes to conceive and you have the wherewithal to raise a child, good for you. Speak with your health care provider prior to conception, follow a healthful lifestyle, make regular appointments with your obstetrician, and there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a delightful pregnancy and deliver a happy baby, even after the age of 35.