Risk factors associated with giving birth over 35 has been understood for years. today more women are choosing to delay pregnancy and having children. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that between 2010-2014, the number of women having babies over the age of 35 has increased by 23 percent.
Many women of advanced maternal age (defined as age 35 or older) give birth to healthy babies. Understanding what factors contribute to your health as well as the health of your baby allows all women, regardless of age, to have a healthy pregnancy.
A Guide to Maintaining a Healthy Pregnancy
Schedule a Preconception Appointment
Speak with your doctor if you’re 35 or older and are considering having a child. In a preconception appointment, your healthcare provider will analyze your current overall health, as well as discuss any lifestyle changes that may improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby.
During this appointment, it is important to address any concerns you may have, as well as discuss any known family or personal history of previous pregnancy complications (such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, or the birth of a premature baby or a baby with a chromosomal disorder). This is also a good time to talk to your doctor about prenatal testing options for chromosomal abnormalities
Prenatal Testing for Chromosomal Abnormalities
One of the most well-known risks of pregnancy at advanced maternal age of 35 or older, is the risk of giving birth to a child with Down syndrome. There are currently prenatal screening tests that, when analyzed with your family and personal history, allow your doctor to analyze the chance your baby has of being born with Down syndrome. Non-invasive prenatal testing can be performed as early as week 10 in pregnancy with only a blood draw from the mother.
Seek Consistent Prenatal Care
Routinely scheduled prenatal care visits allow your doctor to consistently monitor your health and the health of your baby. When seen on a regular basis, any changes in your health and the health of your baby are more easily detected. When noticed early, doctors have more time to address the health concern and may be able to prevent further complications.
Additionally, routine prenatal visits give you an opportunity to ask any questions about signs or symptoms you may experience throughout your pregnancy. Your doctor, in conjunction with a genetic counselor, will give you the information you need for a continued healthy pregnancy.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Multiple vitamins and minerals are necessary for the growth and development of your baby. Some of these nutrients include folic acid, iron, calcium and vitamin D. Foods high in protein and low in fat and sugar are also recommended.
Maintaining a healthy diet is essential in order to prevent anemia and infections in the mother, early birth, and low birth weight. Speak with your doctor about a nutrition plan that best fits your needs during your pregnancy.
Physical activity, when practiced regularly, can boost energy levels and can help improve overall health. For pregnant women, exercise can also increase stamina and improve muscle strength, helping to prepare the body for labor and childbirth; it may also decrease recovery time after delivery.
Speak with your doctor about your current exercise routine or about starting an exercise routine throughout your pregnancy. Your healthcare professional will determine if your current activity is okay to maintain throughout your pregnancy. If you are not currently active, your doctor can also help build an exercise routine that is conducive to your current state of health.
Work Closely With Your Doctor
Living a healthy lifestyle and working closely with your healthcare provider will give you the best chance at maintaining a healthy pregnancy, as well as give your baby a healthy start to life.