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Pregnancy in Older Women

Pregnancy is most exciting for many women and also concerning too. Unaccepted effects such as morning sickness, giddiness, nausea & vomiting, gestational diabetes and hypertension are common in most women during pregnancy. In addition to these problems, some women might experience other problems during their pregnancy and after child birth if they become pregnant late in their lives. However some women may experience safe and successful pregnancies even they have late pregnancy.

Planning a pregnancy much later in your life, in late thirties or early forties poses a greater risk of pregnancy-related complications and other health problems to both you and your baby. Knowledge of the genetic disorders and chromosomal defects that may occur and the tests that can detect these problems during pregnancy can help decrease the incidences of complications. Discuss with your doctor and ensure that any existing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and thyroid disease are under control before you plan a pregnancy. You may be advised to take vitamin supplements with folic acid which helps prevent neural tube defects.

As you become older your chances of becoming mother decreases and also the risk of miscarriage increases. Infertility may be attributed to uterine conditions such as endometriosis, fibroids and blocked fallopian tubes. With advancing age, there is greater occurrence of chromosomal aberrations and a higher risk of giving birth to a child with genetic disorders such as Down’s syndrome. It is caused by the presence of an extra chromosome. However, detection of these chromosomal abnormalities early in the pregnancy is possible through screening tests performed in the first trimester. Maternal blood tests, ultrasound, chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis are the screening tests.

Generally, as you grow older you tend to develop chronic health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure which may cause further problems during your pregnancy. Moreover, women who become pregnant late are more likely to develop gestational diabetes and pregnancy-related high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to a serious complication known as pre-eclampsia wherein you may have swelling in your face and hands, nervous system impairment causing seizures, or stroke.

Problems during labour do occur and it is found that the second stage of labour is more prolonged in older women. This is likely to increase the possibility of a forceps or vacuum assisted vaginal delivery or a Caesarean section. Stillbirth or delivery of a baby that has died in the womb is more common in older women. Also, women getting pregnant late in their lives have more chances of delivering twins or triplets, which is usually considered a risk.

Therefore women who have late pregnancies must maintain good health both before conceiving and during pregnancy to reduce complications and have a safe as well successful pregnancy. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet with green leafy vegetables, beans, citrus fruits that are natural sources rich in folic acid. Avoid consuming alcohol and smoking during pregnancy. Regular antenatal care throughout your pregnancy is needed to monitor your health and prevent developing complications. Discuss with your obstetrician before planning pregnancy and follow their instructions carefully.