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Myths and Facts About Geriatric Pregnancies

If you’re planning a pregnancy at age 35 or beyond, you’re joining a growing number of women starting motherhood later in life for reasons that include career, relationships, finances, or fertility. According to the latest data from the National Vital Statistics Reports, the birth rates for women 35-44 have increased while the birth rate for women ages 25-29 has decreased.

Despite the fact that more women postpone pregnancy, medical labels that identify women age 35 and older as having “geriatric pregnancies” or being “advanced maternal age” add to the stigma that it’s abnormal to have a baby in your late 30s and beyond. While many women who get pregnant at age 35 or older have normal pregnancies and deliver healthy babies, long-standing myths, and misconceptions further distort the truth about having a baby at this stage of life. 

You can ensure that you and your baby have the best possible start by working with a high-risk pregnancy specialist before conception. Shaurin Patel, MD, here at ObGyn Care of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, provides expert preconception and prenatal care for pregnant women over 35. From preconception counseling to delivery, Dr. Patel oversees every aspect of pregnancy to give you and your baby the best possible support to achieve a healthy outcome. 

Knowing what to expect can help you make an informed decision about your motherhood journey. Find out what’s ahead as we address some common myths about geriatric pregnancies.

Myth #1: It’s difficult to become pregnant after age 35

While your ability to become pregnant declines by age 30 and decreases with increasing speed in your mid-30s and beyond, many women still become pregnant on their own after age 35. However, if it doesn’t happen naturally, the earlier you pursue medical advice, the greater your chances of achieving pregnancy with fertility treatments, should you choose that option.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that you have an infertility evaluation if you’re not pregnant after six months of having regular sexual intercourse without birth control. You should have this type of evaluation before trying to get pregnant if you’re older than 40 or if you have a condition that could interfere with fertility. 

Myth #2: Geriatric pregnancies have a higher risk of problems

Problems in pregnancy and childbirth occur at all ages. Some of the problems that arise with geriatric pregnancies are attributed to conditions, such as high blood pressure, that become more common with age. Getting pregnant without treating these types of health issues puts you and your baby at risk for complications.

With a preconception checkup, Dr. Patel identifies any medical issues that could interfere with conception or predispose you to complications during pregnancy. During this consultation, Dr. Patel recommends ways to prepare for a healthy pregnancy and advises you about whether there’s a need for specific screening tests before you start trying. 

You can help ensure that you have a healthy pregnancy at any age. A study that included 180,000 pregnancies in Canada determined that women in their 40s achieved similar pregnancy and birth outcomes as younger mothers when they did the following:

Myth #3: After 35, pregnancies have a higher risk of chromosomal defects

While it’s technically true that the chance of having a baby with this type of defect increases with maternal age, it’s important to remember that the actual risk for these abnormalities is relatively miniscule. And women of all ages have a chance of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality.  

A mother at age 25 has a 1/475 (0.20%) chance of having a baby with a chromosome abnormality. At age 30, the chance increases to 1/385 (0.26%) and 1/200 (0.50%) at age 35. By age 40, the chance of a chromosomal defect is 1/65 (1.5%), which means you have more than a 98% chance of having a baby without chromosomal defects at this “advanced” age.

Myth #4: Geriatric pregnancies have a higher rate of birth complications

While preterm birth is a concern for all women, being in your late 30s doesn’t significantly increase the likelihood of delivering a preterm baby. While there’s some evidence that preterm births slightly increase over age 40, studies associate the increase with medical conditions rather than spontaneous preterm labor.

In your 30s, you have just over a 1% risk of stillbirth, while the risk of having a stillbirth in your 40s is about 1-2%. In other words, 98-99% of moms age 40 and over have live births. 

Find out more about what’s involved with a geriatric pregnancy. Schedule an appointment online or call one of our Oklahoma City offices today.

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