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35-Plus and Pregnant

It's not only celebrities like Nicole Kidman and Salma Hayek who are doing it: This year 1 of every 17 babies will be born to women 35 or older. Despite some risks, the outcome for these mothers and babies is good. So what are the risks?

Maternal complications:
The chance of developing high blood pressure is more likely. Gestational diabetes is about twice as common. But both conditions are controllable with diet, monitoring, and, for some, medication.

Genetic abnormalities:
Your risk of giving birth to an infant with chromosomal abnormalities increases with age. At age 35, you have a 1-in-400 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome. By the time you’re 40, your risk has increased to 1-in-100. Luckily prenatal screening tests, like the nuchal translucency screening,
chorionic villus sampling (CVS), and amniocentesis have become incredibly accurate, and you’ll be able to screen for genetic abnormalities.

Complications during labor and delivery:
Women in their 40s are 40% more likely to experience preterm delivery. They are also more likely to experience complications like placenta previa, which can complicate delivery.

Cesarean and forceps or vacuum-assisted deliveries are more common, too, both because doctors tend to make assumptions based on a woman's age and because more health complications can occur.

But Remember:
The best advice holds doubly true: Eat a nutritious diet, stay active, and rest when you need to. Healthy women, regardless of their age, always have better pregnancies, and healthier babies.


Sue Wallace is a freelance writer.