If you get pregnant later in life, it’s important to understand what geriatric pregnancy involves. Learn more about having babies later in life here!
In this article:
- What Is Geriatric Pregnancy?
- What Are the Benefits of a Geriatric Pregnancy?
- Understanding Geriatric Pregnancy Risks
- Defying the Odds
- When Do You Need to Talk to Your Doctor?
- At What Age Do Women Lose The Ability To Get Pregnant?
What You Should Know About Geriatric Pregnancy
What Is Geriatric Pregnancy?
Geriatric pregnancy occurs when an individual becomes pregnant beyond the peak of childbearing age. It is common to have babies later in life, but it is also important to understand the complications that may arise when the body goes through pregnancy at a later age.
In hindsight, geriatric pregnancy means conception during a much older maternal age. In the world of obstetrics and pregnancy care, geriatric pregnancy refers to the pregnancy of a woman over 35 years old.
Pregnancy at 40 is no longer rare these days. In a 2014 Time article, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed women are becoming first-time mothers at a much later age.
There are many reasons why many women prefer to get pregnant later in life. Many people prefer to establish their careers or finances before starting a family.
Modern fertility treatments make geriatric pregnancy a possibility. Superior prenatal care allows a safer pregnancy at 40 or even 50.
What Are the Benefits of a Geriatric Pregnancy?
Geriatric pregnancy requires careful thought and consideration due to the risks involved, as you will learn later on. Pregnancy after 35 can also have some advantages.
First, many mothers-to-be are more financially stable after 35. They are also more likely further along on their career paths.
This may afford them proper health care and maternity leave benefits. They may even have a comprehensive insurance plan that promotes efficient and helpful full-spectrum care. They can afford better doctors and have more control over their delivery.
The CDC also notes that older parents tend to have better resources to take care of their babies and young children. Access to babysitters, proper nutrition, daycare, and education help the kids get off to a better start in life.
Understanding Geriatric Pregnancy Risks
In spite of the progress in geriatric pregnancy care, it still remains a high-risk pregnancy. The chances of complications are even higher when the advanced maternal age comes with pre-existing medical conditions.
The connection between pregnancy over 35 and certain health risks isn’t as well understood as the others. The statistics alone, though, make it clear that the potential problems are more likely due to geriatric pregnancy.
If you are planning to get pregnant much later or if you are having a geriatric pregnancy, pay attention to the following risks:
High blood pressure is more common for pregnant women who are over 40, although it can also occur among those under 20. In both cases, hypertension can pose a higher risk of preeclampsia.
What is preeclampsia? Preeclampsia is a condition among pregnant women that is characterized by high blood pressure. Women will have high protein levels in their urine and can experience swelling in their hands, feet, and legs.
This can place the baby’s health and that of the mother in serious danger. Low birth weight for newborns is also associated with gestational hypertension. Strokes and organ failure are possible risks for the mother.
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, the doctor may recommend complete bed rest, diet modification, and hydration. If the pregnancy is further along, the doctor may decide to induce labor or perform a C-section.
2. Gestational Diabetes
The odds of developing gestational diabetes goes up when pregnancy over 35 occurs. It can also increase the risk of hypertension.
Gestational Diabetes Definition: A condition where a pregnant woman has high blood sugar levels but normalizes after delivery.
Gestational diabetes may also lead to overweight babies. Injury due to the baby’s larger-than-normal size can occur during delivery. The infant may also be prone to health problems, or the mother may undergo premature delivery.
Monitoring your blood sugar levels is part of prenatal care. If you show an increased risk of developing gestational diabetes, the doctor may create a plan that includes a low-carb diet and some exercise. Fortunately, this condition tends to disappear after you have delivered your baby.
3. Conception Issues
Geriatric pregnancy is difficult due to the biological reproductive changes in women. Unlike men, women are born with all of the eggs they will have for their entire lifetime.
As they age, though, their numbers and quality decline. Statistics have shown pregnancy after 35 has a success rate of only 15% per cycle. It drops to 10% every cycle once a woman reaches 40 years old.
4. Miscarriage and Stillbirth
Because of the possible inferior quality and viability of the eggs, geriatric pregnancy can also increase the risk of stillbirth and miscarriage.
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5. Multiple Pregnancy
Older women are also likely to conceive multiple babies simultaneously. One possible reason for this is that hormone therapy boosts conception odds. This can help produce multiple eggs so at least one of them will survive.
For some couples, this “risk” is actually a blessing because it may make having more thane child possible. For many, though, caring for twins, triplets, or more is a daunting prospect.
6. Delivery Complications
Cesarean birth is a possibility for every woman of childbearing age. With geriatric pregnancy, the chances increase significantly.
Specific complications, such as placenta previa (a condition where the placenta blocks the cervix), are more likely with pregnancy after 35.
7. Risks to the Child
Geriatric pregnancy poses risks not only to the mother but also to the baby. Since they are prone to low birth weight or premature delivery, they may develop certain health issues early in life.
The baby may be more sickly, develop under-functioning organs, or even have birth defects. In addition, the chances of conditions due to chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome are also high.
8. Low Energy
The process of pregnancy is long, draining, and can significantly affect women’s health. Younger women may have a draining experiencing, especially when giving birth, and this can be even more taxing for older women.
Aging can reduce bone density, for example, and this is one huge reason why we need more calcium as we get older. The loss of bone density is doubled if you have another life growing inside you that’s also consuming the nutrients you need, which makes it even harder for older women.
Draining a mother’s energy does not stop after conceiving and giving birth. It will continue as the child grows.
Defying the Odds
It’s important to remember that the statistics relating to geriatric pregnancy risks are just numbers. They don’t take into account what type of care the expectant mother received or the extra precautions the mothers-to-be have undertaken.
Today, there are many ways to improve the safety of the pregnancy and the delivery of a healthy baby. It can’t be emphasized enough: proper prenatal care is crucial.
Your health care provider will also prescribe supplements that aid in baby’s growth. Many of these also protect your stressed bones and organs.
Common nutritional supplements include folic acid, vitamin D, iron, and calcium. Eating more food rich in these nutrients – and less of those high in sugar, fat, and salt – also decreases the risks of a problematic geriatric pregnancy.
Your doctor will also advise you on how to stay active without putting your baby at risk. Their suggestions will depend on your current fitness level and any complications you may be having.
In general, continuing with your normal fitness routine may be fine as long as it’s not too vigorous. If you weren’t active before your pregnancy, consider taking up swimming, walking, and gentle stretching.
You may be advised to gain weight wisely as well to support your baby’s proper health. Gaining the right amount of weight can also help you lose it easily after giving birth.
Needless to say, smoking and drinking alcohol are prohibited, and caffeine should be severely limited. If you currently take prescription medication or nutritional and herbal supplements, run them all by your doctor.
It’s possible that your medications may need to be adjusted. If you should happen to get sick while you’re pregnant, ask for a list of safe medications to treat your condition.
When Do You Need to Talk to Your Doctor?
You should always talk to your doctor if you are conceiving over the age of 35 because the risks of pregnancy complications are high. A study revealed that women who are older might have fear of complications surrounding conception, labor, and giving birth primarily because of the age.
What’s even more complicated is their fear might result in negative outcomes, like health complications for the mother. Despite this fear, getting pregnant over 35 can still result a healthy delivery.
This is the reason why it’s important to consult your physician when you are experiencing a geriatric pregnancy, so they can assist and guide you on what to do and expect in this situation.
Your doctor may also perform a geriatric pregnancy test. This will help them determine the risks of your pregnancy, and aid you in deciding what is right for you as well.
At What Age Do Women Lose The Ability To Get Pregnant?
Fertility may decline as women age, but age alone rarely keeps women from conceiving. Typically, women may not be able to get pregnant when they reach 40, but there are some who still get pregnant well into their early 40s.
When this happens, careful healthy pregnancy practices should be highly observed, such as the following:
- frequent appointments with your doctor
- changes in your lifestyle that may help with the pregnancy
- eating a healthy and well-balanced diet
- gaining a healthy amount of weight
- staying physically active
- avoiding risky substances like alcohol
- prenatal testing
There is no telling exactly what age women cannot get pregnant because it will depend on each individual as women’s pregnancy differs.
It will help if women will stop worrying about getting pregnant at an older age to avoid adding stress to themselves and follow the necessary actions to take as per the doctor’s advice.
What is parenting like when you’re much older? Watch this video from Real Stories to find out:
For many reasons, geriatric pregnancy is challenging. It doesn’t mean it’s not possible. You can have a safe, happy, and healthy pregnancy as you practice medical diligence, vigilance, and self-care.
Do you have any experience with geriatric pregnancy? How was it for you? Let us know in the comments section below!
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on September 20, 2018, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.