Geriatric Pregnancy

What Is Geriatric Pregnancy?

Geriatric pregnancy is a rarely used term for having a baby when you’re 35 or older. Rest assured, most healthy women who get pregnant after age 35 and even into their 40s have healthy babies. That doesn't mean you shouldn't think about smart ways to make sure you and your baby stay as healthy as possible during your pregnancy.

Geriatric Pregnancy Risks

Problems can arise no matter how old you are when you get pregnant. But some become more likely when you hit 35, including:

  • High blood pressure, which can lead to preeclampsia (dangerously high blood pressure and organ damage)

  • Gestational diabetes

  • Miscarriage or stillbirth

  • Labor problems that require you to have a C-section

  • Premature birth

  • Low birthweight

  • Chromosome disorders in the baby, like Down syndrome

Geriatric Pregnancy Benefits

On the other hand, there’s proof you might be doing yourself and your baby a favor by putting off childbearing until you’re older. Studies have shown:

  • Older moms tend to be better educated and have higher incomes, so they may have more resources than younger moms.

  • Older moms are more likely to live longer.

  • Children of older moms may end up healthier, more well-adjusted, and better educated.

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

Preconception checkups and counseling. When you decide you’re ready to have a baby, take these steps before you get pregnant.

See your doctor. Get a checkup to make sure you’re ready for pregnancy physically and emotionally.

Get early and regular prenatal care.The first 8 weeks of your pregnancy are important to your baby's development. Early and regular prenatal care can boost 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 provides extra protection for women over 35. It lets your doctor stay on top of health conditions that are more common among 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, the doctor will check your blood pressure, test your urine for protein and sugar, and test your blood glucose levels. That lets them catch and treat problems early.

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Consider optional tests for women over 35.The doctor may offer prenatal tests that are a good idea for older moms. They can help figure out if your baby is likely to have 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 with 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 in your baby's brain and spinal cord. Taking folic acid adds extra protection for older women who are more likely to have babies 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 to protect against birth defects. Don’t 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.

How Can I Lower My Risk for Pregnancy Problems?

You deserve the same TLC as your baby. Taking care of yourself will help you manage any existing health problems and protect you from pregnancy-related diabetes and high blood pressure. And the healthier you are, the better it will be for your little one.

Keep up with other doctor appointments.If you have a chronic health problem such as diabetes or high blood pressure, don’t skip your regular doctor visits. Managing your condition before you get pregnant will keep both you and your baby healthy. See your dentist for regular exams and cleanings, too. Having healthy teeth and gums lowers your odds of preterm birth and of having a baby with a low birth weight.

Eat a healthy, well- balanced diet. Eating a variety of foods will help you get all the nutrients you need. Choose plenty of fruits and veggies, whole grains, beans, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. You should eat and drink at least four servings of dairy and other calcium-rich foods every day. That will keep your teeth and bones healthy while your baby grows. Include good food sources of folic acid, like leafy green vegetables, dried beans, liver, and some citrus fruits.

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Gain the amount of weight your doctor suggests.Women with a normal BMI should gain between 25-35 pounds during pregnancy. If you were overweight before getting pregnant, the doctor may suggest you gain 15-25 pounds. Obese women should gain about 11-20 pounds. Gaining the right amount of weight makes it less likely that your baby will grow slowly. It also lowers the risk of preterm birth. And it makes it less likely that you’ll have pregnancy problems like gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.

Exercise regularly. It’ll 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. You'll most likely be able to continue your normal exercise routine throughout your pregnancy. But the doctor can help you figure out if you'll need to scale back or modify your routine.

Stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Like all pregnant women, you shouldn’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes during pregnancy. Alcohol raises your baby's risk for a wide range of mental and physical defects. Smoking increases the chance that you’ll have a low birth-weight baby, which is more common in older women. Not smoking can also help prevent preeclampsia.

Ask your doctor about medications. They can tell you what meds are safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, supplements, and natural remedies.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on July 17, 2020

Sources

SOURCES: 

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Later Childbearing," "Screening for Birth Defects," "Reducing Your Risk of Birth Defects," "Routine Tests in Pregnancy."

March of Dimes: "A Mommy After 35," "Overweight and Obesity During Pregnancy."

Mayo Clinic: “Preeclampsia,” “Pregnancy after 35: Healthy moms, healthy babies.” 

March of Dimes: “Pregnancy after age 35.”

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “First Births to Older Women Continue to Rise.”

PLOS ONE:“The Relationship between Age at First Birth and Mother’s Lifetime Earnings: Evidence from Danish Data.”

Menopause:“Extended Maternal Age at Birth of Last Child and Women’s Longevity in the Long Life Family Study.”

Population and Development Review:“Advanced Maternal Age and Offspring Outcomes: Reproductive Aging and Counterbalancing Period Trends.”

British Medical Journal:“The health and development of children born to older mothers in the United Kingdom: observational study using longitudinal cohort data.”

 
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