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Published on September 01, 2009

Healthy Pregnancy after 35: Preparations, Precautions and Possibilities

Women becoming pregnant after the age of 35 who have the best outcomes are those who are healthy to begin with. Women with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, should see their physician or midwife to ensure that these conditions are stable and under control.

Women who deliver their babies at or after age 35 are considered to be of “advanced maternal age.” Because of this, there may be some difficulties when trying to conceive. To help with infertility in older couples, there are surgical and non-surgical approaches to treatment that may be beneficial. Sometimes simple actions such as measuring body temperature and using over-the-counter ovulation tests can help identify the ideal time to have intercourse when trying to conceive. The most common form of treatment from a physician is to provide medication that increases the number of eggs that a woman produces in a cycle. Artificial insemination and In-vitro fertilization may also be options used to improve fertility.

There are certain risk factors associated with becoming pregnant at an advanced maternal age. Older women may be at an increased risk of having a baby with birth defects, having a miscarriage and other medical conditions. Because of this, prenatal screening tests are recommended.

To lower the risks associated with conception at an advanced maternal age, doctors recommend that women consult their physician or midwife as early into their pregnancy as possible. The March of Dimes recommends that women over the age of 35 do the following to improve their chances of having a healthy pregnancy:

  • Have a preconception check-up with a healthcare provider.
  • Get early and regular prenatal care.
  • Take a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, starting before pregnancy.
  • Begin pregnancy at a healthy weight.
  • Don’t smoke, drink alcohol or do drugs.
  • Eat a variety of nutritious foods containing folic acid, like fortified breakfast cereals, leafy green veggies, dried beans, oranges and orange juice.
  • Don't eat undercooked meat or change a cat's litter box. Both are possible sources of toxoplasmosis, an infection that can cause birth defects.
  • Don't eat shark, swordfish, king mackerel or tilefish. These fish can contain high amounts of mercury.

For more information about Crozer-Keystone Health System’s maternity services, or for a referral to a CKHS physician or midwife, call 1-800-CK-HEALTH (1-800-254-3258) or visit http://4Ubaby.crozer.org

Reviewed by Carolyn Hadley, M.D., chief of Perinatology for Crozer-Keystone Health System. Office locations at Crozer-Chester Medical Center in Upland and Delaware County Memorial Hospital in Drexel Hill, call (610) 447-6666.

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