If you're over age 35 and pregnant, congratulations! Like you, more women than ever before are having babies later in life. But as an older mom-to be, you may be concerned about the increased risk for problems during pregnancy. Rest assured, most healthy women from age 35 on into their 40s have healthy babies. So try not to focus on your age. Below are some steps you can take to maximize your health and your babies' health during pregnancy.
How Can I Increase My Chances of Having Healthy Twins?
Get early and regular prenatal care. The first eight weeks of your pregnancy are very important to your twins' development. Early and regular prenatal care can increase your chances of having a safe pregnancy and healthy babies. Prenatal care includes screenings and regular exams, pregnancy and childbirth education, along with counseling and support.
Getting prenatal care also helps provide extra protection for women over age 35. It allows your doctor to stay on top of health conditions that are more common in older pregnant women. 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 age 35. Your doctor may offer you special prenatal tests that are particularly applicable for older moms. These test help determine the risk of having babies with birth defects. 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 three months of pregnancy can help prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Taking folic acid adds an important level of protection for older women, who have a higher risk of having babies with birth defects.
How Can I Lower My Risk for Pregnancy Problems?
Remember, you deserve the same TLC as your babies. Taking care of yourself will help you manage any existing health problems and protect you from developing pregnancy-related diabetes and high blood pressure. And the healthier you are, the better for your little ones.
Keep up with other doctor appointments. If you have chronic health problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure, be sure you keep up with your regular doctor appointments. Keeping your condition well-managed before you get pregnant will keep both you and your babies healthy. Be sure to see your dentist for regular exams and cleanings, too. Having healthy teeth and gums lessens the chance of preterm birth and of having babies with low birth weights.
Maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet. Eating a variety of foods will help you get all the nutrients you need. Choose plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. You should eat and drink at least 4 servings of dairy and calcium-rich foods every day. That way you'll keep your teeth and bones healthy while your babies develop. Also be sure to include good food sources of folic acid, such as leafy green vegetables, dried beans, liver, and some citrus fruits.
Gain the recommended amount of weight. Talk with your doctor about how much weight you should gain. Women with a normal BMI should gain between 37 and 54 pounds during pregnancy with twins. If you were overweight before getting pregnant, your doctor may recommend that you only gain 31 to 50 pounds. Obese women should gain about 25 to 42 pounds. Gaining the appropriate amount of weight lessens the chance of your babies growing slowly and preterm birth. You also lower your risk for developing pregnancy problems such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.
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. You'll most likely be able to continue your normal exercise routine throughout your pregnancy. But your doctor can help you figure out if you'll need to decrease or modify your routine.
Stop smoking and drinking alcohol. Like all pregnant woman, you should not drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes during your pregnancy. Drinking alcohol increases your babies' risk for intellectual disability and birth defects. Smoking increases the chance for delivering premature and low birth weight babies, which is more common in older women. Not smoking can also help prevent preeclampsia.
Ask your doctor about medications. Talk with your doctor about what meds are safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines, supplements, and natural remedies.