What is considered advanced maternal age?

By most measures, 35 is still young. So it can be an unpleasant surprise that women age 35 and older who become pregnant are referred to as advanced maternal age.

Many women today are delaying conception and pregnancy until their 30s, whether they’re waiting for the right partner or establishing a career. It’s certainly possible to have a healthy pregnancy and baby if you’re over 35, but it’s important to keep in mind the potential challenges.

So what are the risks of pregnancy after 35? Read on for more information.

Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC has resources for fertility issues, as well as for expectant mothers.

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Can You Get Pregnant?

As you approach your mid-30s, your eggs decrease in both number and quality; you have fewer chances to conceive, and your eggs tend to be less fertile than they once were.

You should have a preconception checkup to ensure you’re in good health. Your doctor will check to make sure you’re at an optimal weight, because being overweight or underweight can interfere with fertility.

If you’re older than 35 and haven’t conceived after six months of trying visit your doctor to discuss conception options such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments.

Video: What Is Advanced Maternal Age? | UPMC HealthBeat

RELATED: How to Talk to Your Doctor About Fertility

What Are the Risks of Pregnancy After 35?

Women who become pregnant after age 35 are more likely than their younger peers to have multiple births, like twins or triplets. This may occur because of reproductive technologies like IVF, but can also result from hormonal changes that cause multiple eggs to be released and fertilized at the same time. Advanced maternal age is associated with several other risks to mother and baby, including:

  • Gestational diabetes: This form of diabetes occurs only in pregnant women and is more common in older moms. In turn, it can increase your odds of having complications, such as cesarean delivery, birth trauma, and premature birth. Your obstetrician will help you monitor and manage your blood sugar during pregnancy.
  • Preeclampsia: This pregnancy complication causes high blood pressure, kidney damage, and other problems. Preeclampsia is a potentially life-threatening condition that poses health risks to both mother and baby.
  • Chromosomal abnormalities and congenital defects: Older women are at higher risk for having a baby with Down syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities and birth defects, according to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Prenatal screening tests can shed light on your risks.
  • Premature birth: Conditions like gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, as well as age itself, can make older moms more likely to deliver early (before 37 weeks). A premature birth increases the chances of illness and handicap among babies.
  • Pregnancy loss: Your chances of having a miscarriage or stillbirth are higher if you’re of advanced maternal age. Your doctor will keep a careful watch to help you have a healthy, full-term pregnancy.

RELATED: Chest Pain During Pregnancy: When to Worry

How Can You Have a Healthy Pregnancy?

Despite the risks, it’s entirely possible to have a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby after the age of 35. There are steps you can take to stay proactive about your health and the health of your baby.

  • Make sure you attend prenatal checkups, starting as soon as you know you’re pregnant. These appointments allow your doctor to keep track of your health and that of your unborn baby.
  • Do your best to get any chronic conditions under control, maintain a healthy weight, manage stress, and abstain from alcohol, smoking, and other harmful substances.
  • Consider taking prenatal vitamins, which can also help protect against certain birth defects.

Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC has resources for fertility and complicated pregnancy care for expectant mothers. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions or concerns.

About UPMC Magee-Womens

Built upon our flagship, UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh, and its century-plus history of providing high-quality medical care for people at all stages of life, UPMC Magee-Womens is nationally renowned for its outstanding care for women and their families.

Our Magee-Womens network – from women’s imaging centers and specialty care to outpatient and hospital-based services – provides care throughout Pennsylvania, so the help you need is always close to home. More than 25,000 babies are born at our network hospitals each year, with 10,000 of those babies born at UPMC Magee in Pittsburgh, home to one of the largest NICUs in the country. The Department of Health and Human Services recognizes Magee in Pittsburgh as a National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health; U.S. News & World Report ranks Magee nationally in gynecology. The Magee-Womens Research Institute was the first and is the largest research institute in the U.S. devoted exclusively to women’s health and reproductive biology, with locations in Pittsburgh and Erie.