The number of women having their first baby when they are over 35 has increased nine times over the last 40 years. If you're considering having a baby after 50, you may be wondering about the risks and benefits of being an older mom.
Benefits of Pregnancy After 50
As an older mom, you probably feel more stable and better able to take care of a child than you did when you were young. You'll be glad to know that research backs up those feelings. There are quite a few benefits to having a child later in life, including:
Your son may be smarter. If your baby's father is also older, there's good news. A group of researchers came up with a "Geek score" for boys. The score included IQ, ability to focus on interests, and concern about fitting in with their peers. Boys of older dads were found to have higher IQs and be more focused on their interests. They were also less concerned about fitting in. These are traits that can indicate future academic success.
Your preschooler may have an edge in health and development. Children born to older mothers showed improved health and development compared to children born to younger mothers. In one study, older maternal age was associated with increased immunization rates, fewer unintentional injuries, and fewer hospitalizations at age 5. They also had more developed language skills and fewer social and emotional problems.
You'll be more patient. Older moms tend to be more patient. They are better at setting boundaries. They are also less likely to yell at their kids or punish them harshly. As a result, their kids have fewer behavioral, social, and emotional issues. A study showed that older moms also had less anxiety during pregnancy. They were in more stable relationships and were financially better off.
You'll be smarter when you're older. A study of 800 women from ages 41 to 92 showed that those who had their last baby after age 35 scored better on tests of verbal memory and thinking. It also showed that women who used contraceptives for over 10 years had higher executive function and problem-solving skills later in life.
Getting Pregnant After 50
If you are trying to get pregnant after age 50, you will probably need some fertility help. While it's not impossible to become pregnant naturally at 50, it is very rare.
Women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have. As you get older, you have fewer eggs, and they are more likely to have abnormalities. Most women who get pregnant after 50 use donor eggs. It's also possible to use your own eggs that were previously frozen.
Women over 50 who become pregnant with donor eggs face similar risks of complications as younger women. A study of 101 women over 50 who gave birth with donor eggs found that they had about the same rate of complications as women aged 42 and under.
Risks of Pregnancy After 50
While there are a lot of benefits to having a baby when you're older, there are some risks as well. The medical term for women over 35 is advanced maternal age (AMA). It's worth discussing the risks of pregnancy with your doctor, including being more likely to:
- Have twins or triplets
- Develop gestational diabetes
- Develop high blood pressure
- Have a premature birth
- Need a C-section
- Have a baby with chromosome problems such as Down Syndrome
- Have a pregnancy loss
To increase your odds of having a healthy pregnancy, make sure you:
- Get regular prenatal care
- Eat a healthy diet
- Stay active, but talk to your doctor about exercising
- Gain the right amount of weight
- Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs
- Talk to your doctor about your medications and supplements
- Talk to your doctor about testing for chromosome problems
If you are over 50, you may need specialized care during pregnancy, including:
- Preconception counseling to discuss risks
- Expert assessment of the risks to you and your baby
- More frequent prenatal visits
- Ongoing monitoring of your baby's progress
- A carefully planned delivery
- Birth defect screening, testing, and counseling
- Management of any existing conditions
- Early testing and treatment for gestational diabetes and hypertension