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Pregnancy After 35

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As the saying goes: Age ain’t nothing but a number. But when it comes to getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy, it can matter. Rest assured, most healthy women who get pregnant after age 35 and even into their 40s have healthy babies. That doesn't mean, though, that you shouldn't think about smart steps you can take to maximize your health and your baby's health during pregnancy.

How Can I Increase My Chances of Having a Healthy Baby?

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.

Getting prenatal care also helps provide extra protection for women over 35. It allows your doctor to stay ahead of health conditions that are more common in women who are older when they get pregnant. For instance, your age may increase your risk for gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure along with protein in the urine. During prenatal visits, your doctor will check your blood pressure, test your urine for protein and sugar, and test your blood glucose levels. That way, any potential problems can be caught and treated early.    

Consider optional prenatal tests for women over 35. Your doctor may offer you special prenatal tests that are particularly applicable for older moms. These tests help determine the risk of having a baby with a birth defect. Ask your doctor about these tests so you can learn the risks and benefits and decide what's right for you.

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.

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