Despite the fact that more and more people are waiting longer to get pregnant, having a baby later in life still comes with a lot of stigma.
The phrase “geriatric pregnancy” was once commonly used to categorize pregnancies in people over the age of 35 before it was eventually replaced by the term “advanced maternal age.” Describing her pregnancy as geriatric or elderly was and is not only harmful, causing many people to feel high levels of anxiety about their so-called biological clocks, is downright inaccurate.
While it is true that the risk of pregnancy complications or infertility increases with age compared to younger people, the vast the majority of people aged 35 and over have harmonious and successful pregnancies. Not to mention that even if there is a problem, there are many tests and treatments available to help people over 35 have healthy pregnancies in most cases.
“The most likely thing in these pregnancies is that absolutely everything will be fine,” Melissa Rosensteinmaternal-fetal medicine specialist, obstetrician and gynecologist from the University of California, San Francisco, told HuffPost.
Where does the term “geriatric pregnancy” come from?
Advanced maternal age pregnancies occur when the mother is going to give birth after the age of 35. The risk of problems increases as you get older, according to Rosenstein.
But there is nothing special at 35 when it comes to pregnancy risks and complications. It’s not like the risk of your baby having a chromosomal abnormality is lower at age 34 and suddenly skyrockets the following year. “It’s a gradual progression,” Rosenstein said.
The age of 35 was chosen decades ago when doctors needed a way to tell which pregnant patients had undergone genetic testing. At the time, studies indicated that people over 35 had a greater risk of pregnancy loss due to amniocentesis – a procedure that assesses the genetics of the fetus – and doctors decided that only people 35 years and older would be eligible for this type of genetic test.
Today, amniocentesis is a much safer procedure, offered to all pregnant women, but there remains some stigma about being pregnant after 35.
Nowadays it is much more common to get pregnant after 35 as more and more people delay parenthood and marriage in order to prioritize their careers and education. “A lot to most of my patients are over 35 — that’s not really a big deal,” Rosenstein said.
The real risks of being pregnant after 35
Women and people with uteruses are born with all the eggs they will have in their lifetime, and as they age, their egg supply – and quality – decreases. With this, the chances of something going wrong with the chromosomes during ovulation – the release of the egg from the ovary – also increase.
To research showed that pregnant women of advanced maternal age are more likely to suffer from ectopic pregnancy, chromosomal abnormalities, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and cesarean delivery. The risk of infertility also increases as you get older — it may take you longer to get pregnant and you may have a higher risk of miscarriage if you do become pregnant, according to Rosenstein. But if you have regular periods every month, chances are you’ll be fine.
This does not mean that everyone who becomes pregnant after 35 is doomed. In fact, in the vast majority of advanced maternal age pregnancies, everything goes perfectly well.
“When you do studies, you see that the risk of complications is higher in older women, but the absolute risk is still very low,” Rosenstein said. The most likely thing is that everything will be fine.
According to Jill PurdieOB-GYN and Medical Director at Northside Women’s Specialists of Pediatrix Medical Group, we now have more accurate tests that can be done early in pregnancy to assess whether the mother or fetus has any health issues.
“With early and routine prenatal care, many pregnancy complications can be detected and treated early before they cause a significant problem,” Purdie said. Certain lifestyle choices, such as maintaining a healthy body weight and exercising, can also help mitigate some of these risks.
That said, it’s really hard to predict who will have trouble getting pregnant and being pregnant in the future. If you’re worried, it’s worth talking to your doctor about how regular or irregular your menstrual cycles are and when your mother went through menopause.
Having a baby is a big decision, and Rosenstein said it’s important to do it when you’re ready, regardless of your age.
“Although there is an increased risk, as noted above, for women of advanced maternal age during pregnancy, the majority of women are able to have a successful and healthy pregnancy at a later age” , Purdie said.
The Huffington Gt