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Assessing the risk of old-age pregnancy
Even older women who are in perfect health can’t avoid the higher risk for certain pregnancy complications: 1) Difficulty conceiving “We clearly see a decline in the probability of pregnancy with age,” says Richard Paulson, M.D., director of the Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Program at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “For a woman in her early 40s, the probability of pregnancy—whether or not she is undergoing fertility treatment—is about half that of a woman 10 years younger.” 2) Miscarriage “If the average miscarriage rate is 20 percent, the risk is closer to 25 percent for a woman in her 40s,” says OB-GYN professor Ferguson. Diabetes Older moms are at greater risk of developing gestational diabetes because their endocrine systems aren’t quite as resilient as younger women’s. 3) Aches and pains “All the body systems that pregnancy normally impacts get impacted a little more with age,” Agnew says. For example, the extra weight gained during pregnancy may take a greater toll on an older woman’s musculoskeletal system, causing more back and muscle aches. 4) Cesarean section According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the Cesarean rate for women older than 40 is 41 percent, almost double the rate (21 percent) for women between the ages of 20 and 24. According to Ferguson, there are three main reasons: An older woman’s uterus doesn’t always contract adequately; older women have a higher rate of preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced high blood pressure, which often requires a Cesarean delivery; and older women are more likely to develop gestational diabetes and thus have bigger babies. 5) Low-birth-weight babies Fetal growth restriction, which occurs when blood flow to the fetus is reduced, is more common among older moms. That’s because as a woman ages, her circulatory system becomes less robust, so she may not deliver as much blood to the uterus and placenta. 6) Birth defects While good health habits can offset some potential problems, no amount of exercise or other behaviors can change one reality: the age of your eggs. Though scientists don’t know why, older eggs are more likely to result in babies with chromosomal abnormalities. For instance, the risk of having a baby with a chromosomal defect increases with the mother’s age: A 33-year-old woman has a 1 in 208 chance that her baby will have a defect such as Down syndrome, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Among women 10 years older, that number is 1 in 19. Source:
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