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Advanced Maternal Age

The term, advanced maternal age, refers to pregnant women who are 35 or older.

What is advanced maternal age?

The term, advanced maternal age, sounds a lot worse than it is. Believe it or not, this refers to pregnant women who are 35 or older. The other term that is often used is geriatric pregnancy, which again, medically is said to begin at the age of 35. Who would have thought that 35 years old would be considered an “advanced age” or “geriatric”?? Call it what you will, don’t focus on the name; let’s explore what it means.

If you are older than 35, it is recommended to take additional steps if you are pregnant or considering pregnancy. Complications may be more likely, and you may be told to have a C-section or labor induction at 39 weeks. If you are older than 35, you may want to schedule prenatal screening tests to see if your baby is at risk for particular congenital anomalies.

Supporting you through pregnancy at an “advanced maternal age” is what Dr. Heather Stanley-Christian at Unity Maternal Fetal Medicine specializes in. She also provides high-risk pregnancy monitoring if there are complications with your pregnancy.

What are the common pregnancy complications with advanced maternal age?

As you cross over the 35-year mark, you are more likely than younger women to develop certain health conditions that may cause complications. At Unity Maternal Fetal Medicine, we are well-versed in monitoring, caring, educating, and supporting you through this exciting, yet sometimes scary, time. Since we are dedicated to educating, we are sharing with you a few possible health conditions that may appear.

  • Fertility challenges. As you get older, it is natural to have fewer eggs. Additionally, the eggs you do have are not easily fertilized by a man’s sperm. This can make it more difficult for you to get pregnant. If you are older than 35, and you have been trying to get pregnant for 6 months, it may be a good idea to schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist. Seek professional guidance and know you are not alone.
  • Pre-existing diabetes, which means you developed diabetes before getting pregnant. Too much glucose (blood sugar) can damage a developing baby throughout the pregnancy. Importantly, persistently high levels of glucose will damage your body, including nerves, blood vessels, your eyes, and kidneys. You can still get pregnant and grow your family; however, it is recommended for you to be monitored and supported by a healthcare professional, like Dr. Heather Stanley-Christian.
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure, which is when the force of blood against the walls of your blood vessels is too high. Again, this is a manageable condition. It is best for your health to have medical oversight from a specialized practice like Unity Maternal Fetal Medicine.

These health conditions can increase the chance of issues during pregnancy, including:

  • Low birthweight (a newborn weighing less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces)
  • Premature birth
  • Congenital anomalies
  • Chromosomal syndromes, such as trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome)
  • Being pregnant with multiples (twins, triplets, or more)
  • Cesarean birth (C-section)
  • Miscarriage (when the fetus dies in the womb before 20 weeks of pregnancy)
  • Stillbirth (death in the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy)

Do I need to schedule any special prenatal tests?

If you are older than that magic number of 35 years, you may want to have some prenatal tests to see if your baby is at risk. Screening tests, like maternal blood screening or cell-free fetal DNA screening, will check your blood to see if your baby is at risk for certain defects. Again, this will only tell you if your baby may be at risk, not whether or not your baby will have a congenital disability.

If your baby is at risk for specific genetic disabilities, you may want to schedule some diagnostic tests. Chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis are two tests that will be able to tell you whether your baby has a disability or not. There are many panels of tests available, and every patient is unique. During your consultation or appointment with Dr. Stanley-Christian, she will help you decide which screenings and tests are right for you.

I’m of advanced maternal age; what can I do to have a healthy baby?

This is a great question that every future mother should ask, regardless of their age. Whether you are younger or older than 35, there are steps you can take before and during pregnancy to help have a healthy pregnancy and baby.

Before pregnancy, we recommend that you:

  • Schedule a preconception consultation, which will help make sure you are healthy before you get pregnant.
  • Get treatment for any health or mental conditions, such as diabeteshigh blood pressure, and depression.
  • Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid each day. Every cell in your body needs folic acid for healthy growth and development.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, use drugs, or abuse prescription drugs.
  • Get to a healthy weight. You are more likely to have health problems during pregnancy if you are overweight or underweight.
  • Reduce your stress.
  • Protect yourself from unsafe chemicals like cleaning products or paint.

During pregnancy, we recommend that you:

  • Schedule and attend prenatal care checkups. You can also talk to your provider about prenatal tests and vaccinations.
  • Keep up with a treatment for any health conditions. You may need to change to medicines that are safer for your baby during pregnancy. This should be an open conversation with your medical caregivers.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol, use drugs, or abuse prescription drugs.
  • Gain the right amount of weight. Every woman is different; discuss this point with your provider.
  • Reduce your stress. This is a great opportunity to ask for help from your family and loved ones.
  • Protect yourself from unsafe chemicals like cleaning products or paint.

Request an appointment in Winter Garden, Florida

If you are 35 older and you are thinking of getting pregnant, request a preconception consultation using the form below. If you are 35 or older, pregnant, and feel your pregnancy may have complications, schedule an appointment so that Dr. Stanley-Christian can determine if complications are present. Dr. Stanley-Christian is a triple board certified physician who has passionately cared for hundreds of women and their families. She will welcome you to her practice with open arms.