Pregnancy Risk Factors: Maternal Age

What age is considered a high-risk pregnancy?

Women who get pregnant after the age of 35 are usually considered high risk. This is because the chance of experiencing pregnancy complications increases as a woman ages, but these complications should in no way be seen as inevitable.

Keep in mind that many women make the decision to wait until they are over 35 to start a family, so you shouldn’t let your age cause unnecessary stress or anxiety. Your pregnancy care doctor will likely monitor you a bit closer and could decide to induce labor so that you don't go over your due date. This ensures that your baby is healthy and that you have a safe delivery.

As with any pregnancy, there are risks that you need to consider. If you're over 35, some of those risks need more attention and could pose concerns early in the pregnancy and closer to delivery.

Getting pregnant

One issue that is sometimes attached to your age is how long it takes to get pregnant. As you get older, there are fewer eggs in the ovaries, which can lower (but not eliminate) your chances of getting pregnant. Your remaining eggs can also begin to deteriorate, which could mean that they aren't able to be fertilized or have other issues.

It sometimes takes 6 months or longer to get pregnant after about 35 years of age. You can talk to your doctor about fertility treatments to boost your chances of getting pregnant.

Multiples gestation

One detail to keep in mind about fertility treatments is that they could result in multiple babies. Changes in your hormone levels as you get older can also result in more than 1 baby. This is due to more than 1 egg sometimes being released each month as your body prepares for menopause.

Diabetes

Another risk to consider when you're older and pregnant is gestational diabetes. This is a condition that only occurs when you're pregnant but it can sometimes be a factor in developing diabetes later in life. If you develop gestational diabetes, then you'll likely need to monitor your blood sugar levels each day and watch what you eat.

You also want to watch how much weight you gain as gestational diabetes can sometimes result in a higher birth weight for your baby, which can then lead to difficult labor and delivery. You may need medications to help control your blood sugar levels if they are too high. Premature birth is another issue that could occur with gestational diabetes.

High blood pressure

As you get older, there's an increased risk of developing high blood pressure. Adding pregnancy to the mix can complicate things a bit more and make the risk of high blood pressure a bit higher. When you go to your checkups each month, your doctor will likely test your blood pressure and other vital signs to keep track of your overall health.

If your blood pressure looks as though it's getting higher as your pregnancy advances, then medications could be prescribed. You could also be put on bedrest so that you relax as much as possible until you deliver. Appointments could be scheduled closer together to keep an eye on your blood pressure and other health risks so that you stay as healthy as possible.

Premature delivery

Another risk to think about with maternal age is premature delivery. You want to try to reach 40 weeks—or get as close as possible to this timeframe as possible—to give the baby's lungs sufficient time to develop. If you have your baby earlier than 36 weeks, it could suffer medical issues that would require a longer stay in the hospital, such as difficulty breathing or low birth weight.

C-section

Being older when you get pregnant doesn't always mean that you'll need to have a C-section, but the risk does increase. This could be due to the baby's weight if you have gestational diabetes, complications with the heartbeat during labor or other issues that are seen on an ultrasound that would indicate that your baby needs to be delivered as quickly as possible.

A common reason for a C-section is placenta previa. This occurs when the placenta covers the cervix. If you go into labor, then the placenta could detach and result in hemorrhaging.

Chromosomal abnormalities

The risk for abnormalities associated with the chromosomes increases as you get older and have a baby. For example, Down’s syndrome is a common condition seen in children born to older mothers. You could also be at a greater risk for pregnancy loss as you get older. This could occur while you're pregnant or when your baby is delivered, otherwise known as a stillbirth.

Chromosome abnormalities could cause a miscarriage, as well as the decreased quality of your eggs. Medical conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes can also result in the loss of a pregnancy at any stage.


If you’re trying to get pregnant or are pregnant, and are above the age of 35, reach out to our trusted team at All About Women to answer all your questions about risk factors. It’s our job to monitor you and help you have a safe pregnancy and delivery, and we handle most high-risk pregnancies.

Contact us today to schedule your appointment.