Are you planning to get pregnant anytime soon? Well, whether you’re trying for pregnancy after 35 or just making some plans for the future, there are a few things you need to know before you make this crucial decision.
It can be harder for you to get pregnant in your late 30s. This is because fertility starts to decline as you age and declines even faster in your 30s. As your ovaries get older, the number and quality of eggs dwindle. While it is often more difficult to conceive after 35, it isn’t impossible. Many women deliver healthy babies, even in their 40s. However, you should be well-equipped with all the challenges you might face during this time.
Consider the Risks Involved
The reason why there’s always a debate going on about using 35 as the cutoff age for fertility can be seen in the National Vital Statistics Reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1
In 2018, the birth rates were as follows:
- Women aged 35-39 years – 52.6 births per 1,000 women
- Women aged 40-44 years – 11 births per 1,000 women
This is why it becomes important to note the risks involved and improve your chances of having a pregnancy after 35. While health conditions can take a toll on a person’s health as they age, certain health conditions can cause complications before and during pregnancy.
Risks of pregnancy after 35 include:
- Gestational diabetes: It is a kind of diabetes that is diagnosed during pregnancy. It causes high blood sugar levels that can affect your pregnancy and your child’s health. Controlling blood sugar levels can keep you and your fetus healthy and prevent any complications that may arise during labor.
- High blood pressure: This condition is more common in older women and develops during pregnancy. The force of blood against the walls of the blood vessels is high and needs to be monitored carefully. Your doctor may prescribe you medications to control it, and there’s a possibility that you might have to deliver the baby before your due date to avoid complications.
- Chromosomal abnormalities: Certain birth defects or chromosomal abnormalities can occur when the mother is over 35. An example is Down’s syndrome, the incidence of which increases from 1 in 1,250 births at age 25 to 1 in 400 births at age 35. These abnormalities can be diagnosed early in pregnancy with the help of various screening tests.
- Multiple births: The possibility of having a multiples pregnancy increases with age due to hormonal changes and certain fertility treatments (such as IVF). This can often cause problems during pregnancy, like premature birth and gestational diabetes, and affect your baby’s development.
- Preeclampsia: A pregnancy complication usually beginning after 20 weeks of pregnancy and is characterized by high blood pressure.2 It often leads to serious complications for both mother and baby. Certain telltale signs of preeclampsia include changes in vision, severe headaches, and protein in the urine.
How Can You Improve Your Chances of Having a Healthy Baby?
Age is just a number! If you plan or hope to experience pregnancy after 35, you should see a doctor for a preconception checkup. To help you have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, your doctor will help you find the best prenatal vitamins and ask you to make certain lifestyle changes.
Keep yourself healthy with these basic practices:
- Get yourself treated for any health conditions (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, etc.) you’ve been suffering from. If you take any medications, let your doctor know about them. Your doctor may change your medications depending on what’s safer during pregnancy.
- Getting regular prenatal care is vital for the baby’s development. Your doctor or midwife will carefully monitor you and your baby’s health during prenatal visits. If there’s anything that concerns you, let them know about it.
- Maintaining a healthy diet that consists of fresh fruits and vegetables is essential. Avoid eating fried, fatty foods and foods high in sugar. Consider taking a multivitamin with 400 mcg of folic acid every day. “Taking folic acid before and during pregnancy prevents the chances of birth defects that may occur in the baby’s brain and spine,” says Dr. Mae Jemison, senior consultant gynecologist at Hisblue. “Folic acid adds an extra layer of protection for older women. However, you shouldn’t take more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid without consulting your doctor”, she adds.
- Work out regularly and stay active. It can boost your energy levels and improve your overall well-being.
- If you’re overweight or underweight, consider getting to a healthy weight. You’re likely to have certain problems during pregnancy if you weigh too much or too little.
- Avoid drinking alcohol and other risky substances such as drugs, tobacco, etc. Tell your doctor or midwife about it if you find trouble quitting any of these.
- Manage your stress levels so that it doesn’t affect your pregnancy. Engage yourself in mindfulness and deep breathing exercises such as meditation to put your mind at ease.
Getting pregnant after 35 can be challenging, but it is still possible to have healthy babies. If you’re trying to get pregnant, make sure you feel ready. You obviously cannot prevent yourself from getting older. But you can take good care of yourself by making healthy choices such as eating well, exercising regularly, and avoiding risky substances such as drugs and alcohol that may be detrimental to your pregnancy and your baby’s health. Don’t miss out on your prenatal appointments; they will help create a pregnancy plan right for you.
If you have trouble getting pregnant, various treatment options, such as hormone therapy, in vitro fertilization (IVF), artificial insemination, etc., can help you have a healthy pregnancy. The sooner you start the treatment, the more likely it is to be successful.