There are incredible advantages to getting pregnant after 35. New parents entering their late thirties are often more economically and socially stable. And you may be more prepared–emotionally and physically–for the responsibilities and joys of parenthood. There’s even some evidence to suggest that growing your family after you reach 35 can make you a better parent. So it’s no surprise that more and more women are holding off on having children until they feel ready.
As with any pregnancy, however, there are some unique challenges that you might encounter if you become pregnant in your late thirties. Knowing the challenges you may encounter on your journey can help you prepare and give you time to focus instead on the joys of motherhood.
How Common is it to Get Pregnant After 35?
In 2014, the mean age of women in the U.S. who gave birth to their first child was 26.3 years old. That was up from 24.9 years in the year 2000. The statistics generally indicate that it’s more common for mothers to give birth to their first child in their twenties than in their thirties or forties. But that’s not the whole story.
According to data gathered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of mothers who get pregnant after 35 increased from 7.4% in 2000 to 9.1% in 2014. That may not seem like a huge jump, but it does convey an unsurprising trend: giving birth over the age of 35 is becoming safer, more successful, and more common.
Options To Improve Your Chances of Conceiving
Getting pregnant after 35 naturally might seem like a challenge at first. An average woman over 40 has a roughly 5% chance per cycle of becoming pregnant, compared to a 25% per cycle chance for women in their 20s. At 35, your chances will usually fall somewhere between the two. For most couples, doubts about success often give way to the joys of success rather quickly.
That said, if you are finding it difficult to successfully conceive, there are several options that can help you improve your chances. And that’s true no matter the age at which you decide to expand your family! Some of the most popular such options include:
- Hormones: In some cases, you may be prescribed certain hormone drugs that help increase egg production. This often increases your chances of getting pregnant.
- IVF: In-vitro fertilization (or IVF, as it is more commonly known) is a fairly common fertility treatment. Using this technique, a medical professional will fertilize the egg outside of the body. Once fertilization is successful, the egg is then implanted into the womb, drastically improving chances of conception.
- Egg preservation: In some cases, women who delay becoming pregnant will decide to have their eggs frozen. Using younger, preserved eggs may sometimes have advantages and lead to more successful fertilization.
- Male fertility treatments: Since women over 35 often have partners around the same age range, challenges with getting pregnant sometimes stem from aging sperm. Male fertility treatments can help make sperm more effective and, therefore, increase the chances of successful fertilization.
Getting pregnant after 35 naturally may be your preference. So whether any of these options are right for you will depend on your unique situation and goals.
What to Think About When Getting Pregnant After 35
For all the benefits–for both you and your children–that come with becoming pregnant after the age of 35, there are some risks that you should be aware of as well. Any risks related to pregnancy and childbirth will vary considerably from person to person, so it’s important to talk over all of your concerns with your OBGYN or Midwife. The vast majority of risks can be minimized with the right planning.
Pregnancy After 35 Risk Factors
Some of the more pronounced pregnancy after 35 risk factors include:
- You’re more likely to develop certain health complications, such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. A healthy lifestyle helps reduce the risk of these complications, but additional medical treatment is required if they arise.
- Risks of miscarriage or stillbirth are elevated over the average population in women over 35.
- There is a higher likelihood for delivery via a Cesarean section. This is a contingency you should discuss with your Midwife or OBGYN.
- Chances of a premature delivery (prior to 37 weeks of gestation) are increased, above the average population.
- It may simply take you some extra time to successfully become pregnant.
These risks might sound alarming, but it’s important to remember that most pregnancies–in women above 35 and below–result in an uncomplicated, normal birth. Being aware of risks often helps you minimize their statistical likelihood. When you work with your OBGYN or Midwife to be proactive about your healthy pregnancy, you can spend less time worrying and more time focusing on the joys of pregnancy and motherhood.
Any pregnancy will require some special considerations and post-35 pregnancies are no exception. Some of those special considerations may include the following:
- Screening: There are some genetic, chromosomal tests that can help identify certain abnormalities. If you’re interested in a DNA screening, you should definitely talk to your OBGYN or Midwife, as some of these testing methods do carry a slight risk of miscarriage.
- Stay active and eat well: This advice might sound universal–every medical professional wants you to live a healthy lifestyle. But for women over 35 who want to become pregnant, this advice can help increase your chances of an uncomplicated delivery.
- Take prenatal care seriously: From taking prenatal vitamin supplements to making regular appointments with your OBGYN or Midwife, participating in routine prenatal care is shown to improve outcomes in pregnancy.
- Get the facts before you start: Many OBGYNs and Midwives will recommend what’s been nicknamed a “preconception” appointment for women over 35 who wish to have children. These appointments are designed to help you receive personalized advice that can help you safely achieve your pregnancy goals.
Is Delivery Different if You’re Over 35?
The vast majority of births in women over 35 are uncomplicated vaginal deliveries. Child birth for women over 35 does carry slightly higher risks of complications, and as such, cesarean section deliveries are somewhat more common among this age group.
Pregnancy: Over 35 vs Under 35
The broad strokes of most pregnancies–whether in women over 35 or under 35–will be generally similar. You’ll likely be pregnant for 9-10 months, experience morning sickness for the first trimester, and be somewhat tired and uncomfortable during your final trimester. However, there are important differences for women over 35 in terms of how their pregnancies might proceed.
Some of those differences include:
- More prenatal testing: Because certain birth defects are more common in mothers over the age of 35, your OBGYN or Midwife will want to run a number of additional blood tests and genetic diagnostics to screen for common defects. You’ll talk to your OBGYN or Midwife about the information genetic screening can yield–as well as how to handle possible results.
- Additional diabetes screenings: Because both gestational and non-gestational diabetes are more common in women over 35, your OBGYN or Midwife may want to run additional tests throughout your pregnancy to ensure any diabetes you may develop is detected early.
- Your birth plan may have more contingencies: The vast majority of pregnancies in women over 35 are delivered vaginally. However, women over 35 are more likely to require a C-Section delivery. As a result, your birth plan may touch on these contingencies in more detail than if you were under 35.
- You might take more vitamins: Women over the age of 35 tend to need a little extra help staying healthy during pregnancy–especially when it comes to getting enough vitamins and minerals. That’s why your OBGYN or Midwife might suggest you take more prenatal vitamins than is typical for patients under 35.
- There may be a higher chance of complications: And because there’s a higher chance of complications, you might have more checkups, more appointments, and generally have to pay closer attention to certain things. For women who become pregnant over the age of 35, it’s likely you’ll have more contact with your OBGYN or Midwife than those who are under 35.
- You may have better health insurance: There are also advantages to getting pregnant over 35–and one of those is that you may have better access to a variety of resources! This could include family and friends, but it could also extend to financial resources.
- You might have more familiarity with your physician and medical preferences: Many women over the age of 35 have been going to the same OBGYN or Midwife for years. That means you may already have some familiarity with your care team when you become pregnant. By the same token, you’ll likely be more familiar with your own medical preferences at 35 than you might be at 25.
- Risk assessments: If there are complications, your body may have a harder time bouncing back from them. As a result, your OBGYN or Midwife might evaluate risks differently when you’re 35 than when you’re 25.
There are also some non-medical ways in which delivery may be different if you’re over 35. For example:
You may have a well-established career, and therefore have access to better healthcare benefits. For example, you may be able to take longer maternity leave when you wait until your late thirties to grow your family. Better medical insurance (and more financial power) also means you may have more healthcare options, ensuring access to the type of delivery you want.
Many women in their late thirties have a strong support system, so you’ll have less to worry about during your delivery. This also means you’re more likely to be able to enjoy those precious first moments of bonding with your newborn.
More Common and More Successful
There’s no universally “right” time to have children or expand your family. For women over 35, pregnancy and motherhood can be especially exciting.
Our OBGYNs and Midwives at both our Wilmette or Glenview offices have successfully helped many new mothers over thirty-five. You can learn more about our obstetrics services here. If you have questions or want to schedule a preconception consultation, contact us today to get started!