While getting pregnant and being pregnant after age 35 may be more difficult than it is for younger women, there's room for optimism. Those older than 35 typically are:
Women who become pregnant at 35 years or older have an increased risk of complications like these:
Regular prenatal care can help catch complications early. Diabetes and high blood pressure need immediate medical attention.
Diabetes is more common the older we get. Untreated, uncontrolled diabetes increases the risk of miscarriage and problems at birth for the mother. For the developing baby, it may cause heart, digestive or urinary problems.
Pregnant women over 35 also run the risk of gestational diabetes. This type of diabetes clears up when the pregnancy is over.
Blood tests performed during pregnancy-the glucose screen and the glucose tolerance test-can help your doctor diagnose and treat gestational diabetes.
Doctors usually offer an amniocentesis to pregnant women over 35. The test usually takes place during the second trimester.
An amniocentesis, also called an amnio, examines the fluid that the fetus floats in. To get the fluid, a doctor inserts a thin needle into the uterus.
Amniocentesis can detect or rule out birth defects, such as Down syndrome or spina bifida.
Before having an amnio, you and your partner should discuss what you will do if you find out the fetus has problems. You might choose to end the pregnancy. Or you simply may want to know whatever you can so that you can prepare to care for a child with special needs.
Talk to your doctor about any concerns.
G. Curtis. Your Pregnancy: Every Woman's Guide. Fisher Books, Tucson, Arizona 85743-8416, 1999; Health Online, Inc.; E. Lavin, S. Wood. The Essential Over 35 Pregnancy Guide. New York, New York, 10019, 1998.
Donald Wothe, MD, medical director, Minnesota Perinatal Physicians