This post is sponsored by Kaiser Permanente Orange County but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
What do you have in common with Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, Drew Barrymore, and Halle Berry? If you’re a woman who has had a baby after the age of 35, then you’re in the same company as these celebrities who were all Advanced Maternal Age moms.
I was able to chat with Dr. Johanna Dubyak of Kaiser Permanente Orange County on the topic of Advanced Maternal Age (AMA), what it is, the risk factors associated with it, and some positives about it.
What is Advanced Maternal Age?
A woman is considered Advanced Maternal Age if she is 35 years or older at the time of delivery. The reason why they picked 35 years of age is because at that age, the risks of having a pregnancy affected by trisomy 21 equals the risks of an amniocentesis. It’s not that all of a sudden when you turn 35, there’s a switch that goes off in your body. Some medical societies will say it’s 40 years and above. There’s also a term called “Severe Advanced Maternal Age” for women who are 45 and above. If you’ve watched Bridget Jones’ Baby, then you probably also heard the term geriatric pregnancy. If that wasn’t bad enough, some diagnostics charts also have said elderly.
What Age Should You Have Children?
More and more women are having children later in life due to a number of factors such as getting more advanced degrees, becoming the sole or primary financial provider of their families, or not having the right partner to start a family with. There really isn’t an age where you should stop trying to have kids but there are some factors that need to be considered if you are planning on having children later.
Facts and Risk Factors You Need to Know:
- Biologically speaking, fertility rates decrease with age.
- Fertility rate is defined as the chance of conceiving and getting to a successful pregnancy.
- Miscarriage rate goes up incrementally with age.
- Once you start nearing 40 years of age, there’s a significant drop off in both the success rate of conceiving and an increase in the rate of miscarriage.
- Increased risk of fetal growth restriction, diabetes, hypertensive diseases such as preeclampsia or hypertension, low birth weight, high blood pressure, preterm birth, and having to have a caesarian delivery.
- Having a prior vaginal birth decreases the risk of a c-section in an AMA mom.
- Prenatal care for someone in their 40s consists of more ultrasounds, testing towards end of pregnancy, and more monitoring.
- Chromosomal abnormalities can happen at any age, but increases with age.
- There has been an increase in unexpected pregnancies in women over 40!
- The father’s age can contribute to the risks but the scope of these effects are not as well known as maternal age.
Things You Need to Consider
If you and your partner are considering having more than one child, you have to do a mental calculation of the chance of conceiving, carrying to term and doing that again. A normal pregnancy is usually 9-10 months plus a post partum period. Dr. Dubyak recommends at least a 15 month period between pregnancies because if you have pregnancies too close together, it will increase risks for the second pregnancy. Couples should have this conversation early on to make educated choices and plan.
With the advancement of science, some women are considering freezing their eggs. It freezes them at that moment in time. When you freeze your eggs at for example 28, the risks of chromosomal abnormalities is that of a 28 year old even if you use the eggs when you’re an Advance Maternal Age mom. Despite these innovations, when you are using the eggs from when you were 28, you are still whatever age you are so there could still be complications and risk factors based on your baseline health.
So what if you’re over 35 or even 40 but still want to have kids or add to your family? Dr. Dubyak recommends taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid early on which decreases neural tube defects. She also suggested starting right away since time is of the essence. If you have been trying to conceive for more than 6 months, she recommends getting a fertility work up.
So with all this information, is there anything that is actually positive about being Advanced Maternal Age? Well, women who are older are usually more self-aware because they know themselves better. This is very empowering. With this self-knowledge they can advocate for themselves and their family. You can also read more about the pros and cons of being an older mom that I wrote about a year ago.
I was Advanced Maternal Age and had my daughter when I was 38. I remember disliking that term whenever I went to my OBGYN. There were no major complications with my pregnancy or delivery despite being considered AMA. My husband and I would love to add to our family but time has been slipping by and we have yet to get pregnant again. We did not do a fertility work up because we never pursued it. Of course there are some longings of another child or a sibling for A whenever I see friends with multiple children or friends getting pregnant time and time again. But we are happy and thankful to be a family of three.
This post isn’t to discourage older moms but to bring awareness to this topic. Anyone can have a healthy pregnancy regardless of age but at the end of the day, if you are 40 years old, you’re still 40. You could be the healthiest 40 year old but there are still risk factors due to your age.
I think one take away from this if you are an older woman wanting to start a family is to make a plan, get help and use all the resources available so that you can have the family you’ve always dreamed of.
Thank you again to Dr. Dubyak of Kaiser Permanente Orange County for taking the time to speak to me about this topic that is very close to my heart and for laying out the facts so that older women can have the knowledge they need before embarking on the journey of motherhood.