Age matters in pregnancy. The older you are, the more challenges you may face. Many women over 35 have normal pregnancies and normal deliveries, but statistics show that more problems arise when you’re an older mother.
Older mothers are usually offered more tests during pregnancy, including amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling. Age makes a difference in the delivery room too. Cesarean delivery rates go up in the over-35 set for a variety of reasons.
Getting Pregnant After 35 Is Not Impossible
Age ain’t nothing but a number. But whenever the topic of conceiving after 35 comes up, having a healthy pregnancy, it can matter. It can’t be that difficult. No expert claims it’s impossible. It’s just more likely you may have trouble conceiving. But rest assured, most healthy women who get pregnant after age 35 and even into their 40s have healthy babies.
Your Partner’s Age Matters More if You’re Older Than 35
If your partner is five years older than you, and you’re over 35, your odds for conception are lower. In that same study cited above, the one that looked at conception rates on a woman’s most fertile days, women ages 35 to 39 with similarly aged partners had a conception rate of 29 percent. But, if their male partner was five years older, their success rate dropped to 18 percent.
Again, these rates don’t take into consideration miscarriage rates, and miscarriage and birth defect rates do increase with male and female age. Male age does matter.
If You Don’t Get Pregnant Within Six Months
If you have not conceived after 6 months, contact your health care provider to discuss the possibility of fertility testing. You may decide to consult a fertility specialist at this time.
It’s better to get fertility testing done after just six months of trying if you’re 35 or older. If there is a fertility problem found, you will be more likely to have success in treating it sooner than later. If there are no obvious fertility problems, your doctor may suggest you continue trying to conceive naturally for another few months and come back if you still don’t succeed. Consider a supplement containing myo-inositol to help improve egg quality.
Healthy Living Can Help Boost Your Odds of Conception
Though tempting, don’t assume your age is the only reason you’re not conceiving quickly. When you’re over 35, you already have your age possibly working against you. It just makes good sense to be sure the factors you can control are working for you.
Eating healthier, dropping fertility-busting habits, and maintaining a healthy weight may not only help you conceive faster than someone who doesn’t live a healthy lifestyle but can also boost your odds for fertility treatment success if you do need treatments.
Don’t forget about mind-body therapies as well. While research hasn’t yet found a strong link between mind-body therapies like yoga and fertility, there’s a possibility these stress-reducing activities may help.
This applies to men and women, by the way. It takes two to make a baby. And yes, diet and lifestyle habits can impact male and female fertility.
How Can I Increase My Chances of Having a Healthy Baby?
- Preconception checkups and counseling. You and your health care provider can review your medical history, current medications and overall lifestyle. This gives you the opportunity to address any concerns about trying to conceive after age 35.
- Get early and regular prenatal care. The first 8 weeks of your pregnancy are very important to your baby’s development. Early and regular prenatal care can increase your chances of having a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby. Prenatal care includes screenings, regular exams, pregnancy and childbirth education, and counseling and support.
- Take prenatal vitamins. All women of childbearing age should take a daily prenatal vitamin containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. Getting enough folic acid every day before and during the first 3 months of pregnancy can help prevent defects involving a baby’s brain and spinal cord. Taking folic acid adds an important level of protection for older women, who have a higher risk of having a baby with birth defects. Some prenatal vitamins have 800-1,000 mcg of folic acid. This is still safe in pregnancy. As a matter of fact, some women need more than 400 mcg for protection against birth defects. Do not take more than 1,000 mcg (1 milligram) of folic acid without asking your doctor. Women with a history of a child with neural tube defects need 4000 mcg.
- Physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. Alcohol, smoking, and caffeine can negatively affect fertility. Being overweight or underweight can also affect fertility by interfering with hormone function. Manage to have a healthy lifestyle before and during pregnancy.
How Can I Lower My Risk for Pregnancy Problems?
- Keep up with other doctor appointments. Managing your condition before you get pregnant will keep both you and your baby healthy.
- Maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet. Eating a variety of foods will help you get all the nutrients you need.
- Gain the recommended amount of weight. Talk with your doctor about how much weight you should gain.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise will help you stay at a healthy pregnancy weight, keep your strength up, and ease stress. Just be sure you review your exercise program with your doctor.
Finally, older mothers are more likely than younger mothers to have conceived with the help of assisted reproductive technology because fertility rates fall as women age. These pregnancies are more likely to require close monitoring and cesarean delivery than naturally conceived babies.
This gray cloud does have a silver lining, however. Mothers over 35 have accumulated more life experience and are often more financially secure than younger women, both of which come in handy when you’re raising a child.