Pregnancy advice for midlife moms
By Amy Ociari, Pure Matters
If you’re age 35 or older and thinking about having a baby, you’re part of a trend. Between 1990 and 2003, the number of births to women ages 35 to 39 increased 47 percent, while the actual number of women in this age group rose only 7 percent, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.
“I gave birth at ages 35 and 37, and it was a wonderful experience,” says Michele C. Moore, M.D., a women’s health expert and author of a book on pregnancy and parenting after age 35. She and her co-author, also a “post-35” parent, wrote the book to help women learn about the joys and risks of becoming a midlife mom.
Understanding the risks
Although these problems are rare, women older than age 35 are more likely than younger women to have:
- A baby with a genetic disorder, including Down syndrome
- Delivery by cesarean section
- Pregnancy-induced diabetes
- Pregnancy-related high blood pressure
- Multiples -- twins or more
- Placenta previa, in which the placenta is in the wrong place and covers the cervix
So, it’s important to work with your doctor to increase your chance for a healthy pregnancy and baby. If possible, see your health care provider before you start trying to get pregnant. In April 2006, the federal government issued pre-conception guidelines that include a pre-pregnancy checkup. This exam is especially important if you take long-term medication or have a condition such as diabetes, seizures, or high blood pressure.
Keep in mind that it might take you longer to get pregnant during your 30s than in your 20s. But, if you still haven’t successfully conceived after six months of trying, you may want to talk with your doctor. He or she can do a fertility evaluation.
Knowledge is power
Modern medicine can successfully treat most problems that occur during pregnancy. But, you can help prevent many of them with prenatal care.
Prepare your body before pregnancy by losing weight if you need to, eating nutritious foods, and taking a folic acid supplement. Also take care of your teeth. Hormonal changes during pregnancy increase your risk for gum disease, and good dental health can be important to your baby’s development.
Prepare your mind by thinking through your child care choices. Plan for the effects a newborn will have on your relationships and your work. Take steps to manage stress, too. The link between stress and illness is well-known, and stress can affect both your and your baby’s immune systems.
Work with your doctor
Think of your health care professional as your partner in pregnancy. Follow his or her advice -- don't smoke, avoid alcohol, and take your vitamins. Follow recommendations for routine and risk-specific tests, such as blood glucose tests.
Be sure to ask about screenings. For example, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently recommended that all pregnant women be offered screening for Down syndrome. Two simple first-trimester exams -- a blood test and an ultrasound -- can predict whether you should have additional testing.
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