Pregnancy after Age 35

Women over 35 now account for about 13 percent of births, or about 1 in 8. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the birth rate in women 40 to 44 years of age was 10.5 births per 1,000 and the birth rate in women over the age of 45 was 0.8 births per 1,000 in 2013. Rises in the birth rates for older women is due in part to increasing use of in vitro fertilization and other assisted reproductive technologies.

Some studies have shown that as women grow older, they run a greater risk of miscarriage, premature birth, birth defects, having a low-birth-weight baby, and experiencing complications. Yet other research suggests that the risks of delaying pregnancy until late in the reproductive years (after 35) are not related only to age, but to pre-existing disorders such as high blood pressure or diabetes that may increase with age.

Studies do continue to show that women older than 35 are at higher risk for miscarriage and having babies with birth defects, as well as for cesarean delivery—although the latter may reflect physician-patient anxiety rather than an absolute need for cesareans. In addition, fertility in women declines with age.

None of this means, however, that it’s inadvisable to have a baby when you’re over 35 or even in your 40s. A woman attempting a first pregnancy at 35 or older should take the following additional precautions:

  • If pregnancy does not occur readily, seek professional advice early. If either partner needs treatment for infertility, the sooner it is begun, the better.
  • Women over 35 should consider amniocentesis to determine whether there are genetic abnormalities in the fetus. Genetic counseling for couples is a good idea.
  • Try to embark on pregnancy before age 40, since fertility declines quickly after that, and the chances of genetic abnormalities in the fetus increase. Nevertheless, women in their early 40s can still conceive and bear healthy babies.

Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at HealthCommunities.com

Published: 22 Jun 2010

Last Modified: 17 Feb 2015