Pregnancy After 35 | Advanced Maternal Age

Pregnancy After 35, Advanced Maternal Age, man hugging pregnant woman

One day you’re 34 and feeling fine, but as the clock strikes midnight on your 35th birthday the switch is flipped and your fertility takes a nosedive, right? Forget gradual changes – your ovaries throw a little party and the DJ starts spinning “Last Dance.” Your eggs decide to pack their bags and head for retirement at the exact moment you blow out the candles on your birthday cake. You’re no longer just a regular person, you’re now a high-risk pregnancy ninja! Oh, if only biology were that punctual! 

In reality, it’s a much more subtle affair. It’s not a grand finale; it’s more like a slow trickling of the fertility faucet over time. Research shows that certain risks do increase with age, but it’s not the scary cliff that it sounds like. Each pregnancy is unique, and many women have healthy pregnancies and babies well into their 30s and beyond. I was 35 when my second child was born and we both did just fine. 

You might have heard various labels thrown around, but don’t let these labels fool you. We’re here to shed light on the journey of motherhood that can begin later in life.

What is Advanced Maternal Age?

According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), you’re at an advanced maternal age if you’re 35 years old or older at the time you deliver your baby.

In the past, you might have heard the phrase “geriatric pregnancy,” which, let’s admit, doesn’t quite capture the vibrant and energetic spirit of the modern mom. Thankfully in recent years, the medical community has shifted away from using this term. Healthcare professionals have started using the more clinical term “advanced maternal age,” “AMA” or simply stating the age of the mother. 

The Perks and Considerations

Now, let’s talk about the upsides and considerations of embarking on this journey a little later in life. One key benefit is the wisdom and life experience you bring to parenthood. You’ve had time to establish yourself, both personally and professionally, which can provide a stable environment for your little one. Additionally, you often have a strong support network and are financially secure, adding to a nurturing atmosphere.

On the flip side, waiting until later in life to have a baby may present challenges. Fertility naturally declines with age, which might make conception a bit trickier. Also, there may be increased risk of certain medical conditions during pregnancy. However, with proper care and attention, they can be effectively managed.

Risks Associated with Advanced  Maternal Age

Healthcare providers may express concerns related to potential complications. They might want to monitor your pregnancy more closely to ensure a safe and healthy journey for both you and your baby. Open communication and collaboration with your healthcare team are key to navigating these considerations and making informed decisions.

  1. Risks to Babies:

Pregnancy after age 35 carries a slightly higher risk of certain chromosomal abnormalities in the baby, notably Down syndrome. Other potential risks include preterm birth, low birth weight, and stillbirth. Advanced maternal age also increases the likelihood of the baby having certain congenital disorders.

  1. Risks to Parents:

Risks for parents include a marginally higher likelihood of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes or preeclampsia. Other risks include complications during labor and delivery and a higher rate of a cesarean section. 

  1. Special Prenatal Tests and Precautions:

Prenatal care is important for all pregnant folks. When you are 35 or older your healthcare provider may recommend additional prenatal tests such as amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS) to screen for chromosomal abnormalities with more accuracy. Also, your healthcare team usually recommends more frequent and detailed ultrasounds and blood pressure monitoring.

Navigating Labor and Delivery After 35 

You may encounter different recommendations from your care provider regarding labor and delivery. It’s not uncommon for your doctor or midwife to consider induction around 39 weeks to mitigate potential risks. However, recognize that these risks, while elevated, are still relatively low.

The decision to induce labor should be a collaborative one, based on a thorough discussion with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits. Understanding the reasoning and evidence behind this recommendation is necessary to make an informed choice. Studies suggest that elective induction at 39 weeks may marginally reduce the risk of certain complications but this must be balanced against the risks of the interventions and the impact they can have on your birth experience. 

Have an open dialogue with your provider, express your preferences, and participate in the decision-making process. Consider seeking a second opinion, and trust your instincts. Knowledge is your most potent tool to achieve your ultimate goal of a safe and positive birth experience that aligns with your values and desires.

To learn more about the risks associated with advanced maternal age, and research on induction and planned cesarean for AMA, check out this article from Evidence Based Birth. 

Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy After 35

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the chance of complications and keep you feeling energetic and strong during your pregnancy. Here are are some of our doula tips:

  • Regular Prenatal Care: Ensure you attend all prenatal check-ups and follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations.
  • Healthy Diet and Exercise: Maintain a balanced diet, take your prenatal vitamins and engage in safe and appropriate exercise during pregnancy to support your health and the baby’s development.
  • Adequate Rest: Prioritize getting enough rest and sleep to support your overall well-being during pregnancy.
  • Manage Stress: Practice stress-relieving techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, or prenatal yoga to keep stress levels in check.
  • Educate Yourself: Stay informed about the potential risks and complications associated with pregnancy after 35, and discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider.
  • Emotional Support: Seek emotional support from a counselor, support group, doula, or trusted friends and family to navigate the emotional aspects of pregnancy.

Lastly, here’s to all the 35-and-overs, gracefully pirouetting through fertility-land while dodging myths and misinformation. Fear not, you are not broken. You can approach this phase with a little extra determination and a smile. You’ve got this! 

You may also like: On Being An Older Mom

About Christie Collbran

Christie believes in helping women recognize their own inner wisdom, strength and power. Having served as President of the Tampa Bay Birth Network for six years and with ten years serving families as a birth doula, she has a reputation for leadership, dedication and compassion. A childbirth educator, certified lactation counselor as well as a certified doula, she makes a point of ensuring mothers and their partners understand all their birthing options and what to expect on their journey.> keep reading