Pregnancy is a personal decision that each family makes on its own, and the age of the mother may be a part of the conversation. More women are delaying motherhood until they are older for various reasons — including career goals, financial concerns and delaying marriage — and it has become common for women to become pregnant at age 35 or older.
Dr. Deward Voss of Tri-State Maternal-Fetal Medicine in Cincinnati notes that in his 30-year career, he has seen an increase in women becoming pregnant over the age of 35. If you or someone you know has ever been pregnant at or over the age of 35, then you know that “35” seems to be a magic number for obstetricians.
Gina Koop, a Cincinnati-area mom with two children and one more on the way, shared that when she became pregnant with her third child at age 35, “At my initial [doctor] visit, my nurse informed me that I’m technically considered ‘elderly,’” Koop says. “Hearing that word instantly made me concerned.”
Voss says that a woman is considered to be at her reproductive best at age 16, so by the age of 35, there is a slightly increased risk of complications, including preeclampsia, diabetes and birth defects, among others.
At age 35, doctors will also discuss the increased risk of potential genetic abnormalities with an advanced-age pregnancy. But, Voss points out, the mother’s overall health is a key factor during a pregnancy, and that often determines the plan of action for a mother of “advanced age.”
Pregnant women of every age have aches and pains during pregnancy, but some women, like Koop, notice more physical discomforts with an advanced-age pregnancy. “I feel more exhausted, and symptoms have been intensified,” she says.
Voss says that while being pregnant at 35 or older can have some increased risks, the pregnancy may not have any additional concerns. Voss says that the most important thing for a woman to do is to monitor fetal movement, as is the case with any pregnancy. Voss also begins non–stress tests and fluid checks with his patients who are age 35 and older at 34 weeks for extra precaution.
Despite the slightly increased risks, being pregnant at age 35 or older can have its benefits — for both the mother and the child. The mother is often more confident in her decisions, and is usually well educated in pregnancy and overall health. Voss says that an older mother usually has reached a level of maturity that can be helpful in pregnancy and parenting. He also often sees lower stress levels and financial stability in older pregnant women.
“I feel like I’m more prepared both mentally and physically,” Koop says.