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Pregnancy After 40 is No Big Deal

More and more women are waiting to have children.  Driven by a variety of motivations including career choices, marrying later in life, or choosing to have children with a new partner, many moms are older and wiser.  

Whatever the reason, you should know that pregnancy after forty, while it is relatively safe, still comes with some risks. With today’s advances in medicine, increased health care and the increasingly common nature of the phenomenon, pregnancy after forty is actually becoming routine, and both mom and baby can expect excellent care.   However, while there’s nothing to be afraid of, there are many things you should be aware of before going through with a pregnancy at this point in your life.

If you’re pregnant after forty with your first child, your risks are going to be much higher for both pregnancy complications as well as an increased risk for genetic disorders or birth defects compared to younger mothers.  Many women say that the older they get, the more difficult the pregnancy is overall.  

If this will be your first child, you may have complications that other younger expectant moms may not have to face. However, you can avoid or prepare for most of these conditions by simply taking care of yourself and following your doctor’s advice. You can be sure that your doctor will keep a closer eye on you than if you were going through pregnancy in your twenties.

In most cases, your doctor will likely order more frequent sonograms and examinations when you’re pregnant after forty. You may also undergo additional testing, such as amniocentesis to ensure that your baby is healthy if you choose. Because of an increased risk for Down’s Syndrome in women over age 35, your doctor may also suggest blood work like an alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) or triple marker test to look for early indicators of a genetic disorder.  Many women say that they don’t care what the result would be, and choose to not have these tests. It is completely the mother’s choice.  There are other conditions which may affect your health including an increased risk for blood pressure problems and an advanced form of the condition known as preeclampsia that can lead to a preterm delivery. 

Other complications can include excessive weight gain or gestational diabetes, also known as high blood sugar. These can be avoided by making sure you eat a healthy diet for you and your baby. Your doctor may suggest that you visit with a nutritionist to help you plan a healthy and satisfying diet and exercise regimen for your pregnancy. Remember though, that even if you work hard on your weight and watch what you eat, many of these conditions are completely out of your control.

Finally, you should be aware that the risk of miscarriage and premature birth are heightened when you become pregnant after age forty. Don’t let this scare you, but rather discuss with your doctor the typical causes of these complications and what you can do to avoid them. You may be required to go on bed rest during the latter part of your pregnancy if symptoms of preterm labor develop.  Both very young mothers (in their teens) and much older mothers are more likely to miscarry or have a preterm delivery.

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