There are risks that we take every single day. Some we don’t even think about anymore because they’re so commonplace, like driving your car to work. With that you are choosing to put yourself at risk of physical harm in the chance of being injured from a traffic accident.
There are similar risks with pregnancy and having children that we also know, like the risk that your baby may miscarry, or have a genetic condition. But we move forward and conceive anyway because the level of certain risks are SO low that we don’t consider them.
But did you know that your maternal age is a big factor in MANY risks to you and your baby that automatically increase? There are many pregnancy risks after age 35 that you may not be aware of.
Yes, we all hear about the latest the greatest celebrity undergoing fabulous fertility treatments so they can conceive their child, all at age 40+ with no problems. Sure, this happens and many babies are born healthy and full of life that way. There’s nothing wrong with that.
But what you don’t read about in the articles are the risks those celebrity parents took in order to get their child in the first place. I’m not going to discuss fertility treatments and techniques here, rather the fact that the reason most of those parents have to undergo such expensive procedures is because of the difficulty conceiving in the first place….and WHY.
Pregnancy Risks After Age 35 – Not A Short List
Now remember that ALL of these risks are present in you and me from the get go, no matter what our age, race, health, social status, whatever. They just EXIST because they come with life and biology isn’t always perfect. Things can go wrong, whether by our own addition or not. It’s the things we CHOOSE to do that add to the cascade.
- It’s harder to get pregnant because your egg quantity and quality is less than before and dramatically decreases as time goes on. This is just our standard issue when we’re born as females. Unlike men that get fresh sperm constantly, we only have a limited number of egg cells right from birth. Then over time they sit there and wait, and wait, and gradually degrade from waiting, making conception less and less a possibility.
- Your chances of having twins and multiple births goes up, ESPECIALLY when using reproductive technology. It’s just the science. This leads to more strain on the babies and mother because there’s MUCH more life inside you that’s fighting for limited resources.
- Conditions that are from chromosome abnormalities are MUCH more likely, such as Down Syndrome, Edward’s Syndrome, Patau’s Syndrome. (I talk about them more below.)
- You are more likely to develop high blood pressure and gestational diabetes just as a normal factor of aging. Like a middle aged person is at higher risk for such than a young twenty-something–same idea here, just exacerbated because of a pregnancy.
- Your baby is more likely to have a low birth weight or be premature, which we all know leads to months in the hospital and a lifetime increased risk of many health problems that I can’t even list fully.
- During your labor and delivery, you’re more likely to develop complications that may require a cesarean. Many, many factors just from life in general play into this.
(The three main studies/articles that I referenced for these studied outcomes: 1 – Obstetrics & Gynecology, Volume 105, Issue 6, June 2005. 2 – Obstetrics & Gynecology, Biostatistics Branch and Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, 2004. 3 – Fertility & Sterility, Gynecology and Reproductive Science, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Rutgers University, 2014.)
The one thing that most mothers seems to worry about the most is the likelihood that their child will have Down Syndrome.
My Risk Of Having A Down Syndrome Baby
There are actually a few other conditions not many people know about that have similar mechanisms and causes in kind with Down Syndrome. Here’s where we get super scientific but I’ll try to keep it simple for you.
First of all, Down Syndrome is caused when there is an abnormal chromosome number in your baby’s cells. We get half of our chromosomes from mom and half from dad. So a normally functioning cell has two copies of each chromosome. (Chromosomes are simply our DNA wound up into nice little formations.)
But when they don’t split equally, you can have three copies of a chromosome or just one copy, instead of two. This causes all sorts of problems.
Most embryos with chromosome issues naturally miscarry and don’t grow into fully functioning babies. But there are, of course, some that pull through and make life work.
- Down Syndrome is a condition where there are three copies of chromosome number 21. It’s actually more common than I thought, 1 in 700 children in the US have it.
- Edward’s Syndrome is having a third copy of chromosome 18, occurring in about 1 of every 5,000 births.
- Patau’s Syndrome is where an extra copy of chromosome 13 is present; more rarely in 1 of 16,000 newborns.
All of these conditions cause a number of growth and learning abnormalities in children. You can read more about them in the links above.
Here you can see the relative risk of having a trisomy (third copy of a chromosome) in your baby based on your age. And you can see why 35 becomes the default number.
What Can I Do About Them?
Some of these things you can’t even bat an eye at because they are completely out of your control. Others, you can have a great impact upon reducing said risk.
|Risk Factor||How To Reduce Risk|
|Egg quality/quality||In the past it was believe that you cannot do anything to change this. If you find you are not conceiving after a year of trying, talk with your doctor because in vitro methods may be your only option.|
|Multiple Births||Conceiving naturally has lower likelihood of this occurring than using intervening technology.|
|Chromosome Abnormalities||Simply choose to conceive between age 26 and 37 for your statistically best bet. Beyond that, there’s not much else you can do.|
|High Blood Pressure/Gestational Diabetes||
All of the above help with preventing a low birth weight or premature baby as well. But sometimes there’s not much you can do either depending on your individual circumstances.
I know a gal that has MS with three children. I’m not sure if she was diagnosed at the time of her births or not, but it’s considered a factor for her.
With all three of her children, she had pre-eclampsia and naturally went into labor during her six month of pregnancy, through no increased fault of her own. So with her third child, she prepared and expected to have that baby early, as she did.
So sometimes it is just a genetic thing, or some other factor that is beyond our control.
I Know Something Runs In My Family
Such as the case with my friend that seems to have a familial or genetic factor working against her for having preterm babies, you may be aware of Down Syndrome or other complications that run in the family–maybe you don’t know. Ask your mother and other relatives about extended family or details regarding what relative risks may run in your family.
If you know something is present, like a genetic abnormality, you can test for your likelihood of it being present in your baby during your pregnancy. You may even have genetic testing between you and your partner if it is something you may both be carriers for, increasing the likelihood that your children will receive that same.
But that discussion is FAR out of the scope of this post and you MUST work with your doctor there. But you cannot learn enough about those factors as risks for your family until you FIRST talk with your OWN family.
For example….I know that clinically diagnosed anxiety runs through all generations of my and my husband’s family. So we have educated ourselves, become as much aware as possible, and taken steps to not have it become a major detriment to our family–as much as we could help anyway. But this is just one minor example.
I DON’T KNOW how things are with your family. You may not be over 35 years old and may still have things like this happen for you.
On the other hand, you may be 40 years old, ready to have your first child, and know that Down Syndrome runs in your family. But you STILL could conceive over 600 hundred times and have a wonderful baby without any genetic abnormalities at all! Remember that!
The odds are IN YOUR FAVOR. But knowledge is the greater power.
Here’s to all your blessed babies born no matter how old you are.