When you become pregnant at 35 or after, you are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes during that time. Health conditions such as these can lead to complications.
High blood pressure (hypertension) causes extra stress on the heart and kidneys and places you at greater risk of stroke. Gestational hypertension is high blood pressure that occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a severe condition linked to hypertension during pregnancy. Along with elevated blood pressure, women with preeclampsia exhibit signs that the organ systems are not functioning normally.
If preeclampsia progresses, it can lead to eclampsia, a very serious condition associated with seizures that place mom and baby at risk. Moms over age 34 with preeclampsia have an increased chance of later developing cardiovascular and kidney disease.
When not effectively controlled, hypertension during pregnancy can reduce blood flow to the placenta, affecting fetal growth. In extreme cases, labor may need to be induced early, resulting in a preterm delivery.
Another risk associated with pregnancy after age 34 is gestational diabetes. This type of diabetes develops during pregnancy and goes away after delivery. The condition increases the risk of high blood pressure, miscarriage and delivering a very large baby. If you become pregnant after age 34 there is a greater risk of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome.
In addition, cesarean delivery rates are higher for women age 35 or over, and these women are more likely to experience premature labor and delivery and have a greater risk of stillbirth.
While there are concerns associated with becoming a mom after age 34, it is still entirely possible for an older mom to deliver a perfectly healthy baby. If you are age 35 or over and pregnant, protect your health and that of your baby by:
- Eating healthfully
- Exercising regularly
- Avoiding cigarettes, alcohol and drugs
- Maintaining regular prenatal appointments with your OBGYN
- Taking 0.4 mg of folic acid daily to reduce the risk of neural tube defects
Talk with your obstetrician about the risks associated with pregnancy after age 34. Being aware of concerns and taking steps to stay healthy will increase your chances of a successful pregnancy and delivery.