Advanced Maternal Age

About Risk: Comparing Apples with Apples

Serena Kirby, a professional writer and AMA mom from Western Australia contacted us this summer. Her new book called Better Late Than Never Baby includes information and suggestions not found in other sources for expectant moms over age 35. We are sharing excerpts from her book with our audience and let you how you can get your own copy.

The majority of later life mothers are more than aware of the potential for medical complications said to be associated with having a baby later in life.  Increased occurrence of chromosome abnormalities, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, preterm delivery, low birth weight, miscarriage and caesarean, form a list that’s scary enough to turn any pregnancy dream-come-true in to a fear-filled nightmare.

But there’s an increasing amount of research that’s challenging the notion of risk as it relates to the older mother as she is today. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean no risk. Every pregnancy – regardless of age – carries an element of risk.
But how relevant are the statistics on delayed pregnancy and what really is the level of risk when it comes to you? 

Comparing Apples with Apples

While the research conducted three or four decades ago may have been accurate at the time, the type of women becoming older mothers today is very different than it used to be. Sure, not every woman who delays motherhood is well educated, more financially stable, career orientated and healthy, but research does show that this stereotype has a basis of fact.In the middle of the last century, when the term ‘elderly primigravida’ was coined to describe women over 35 embarking on their first pregnancy, having a baby over 35 was not only less common but was also occurring for very different reasons. Fertility problems, previous infection or illness (such as tuberculosis) all played a part. Many babies were unplanned and or born as a last child to a mother who had a number of previous children, which in itself can make pregnancy risky. Nowadays the delay in motherhood can often be accidental (due to circumstances) or deliberate (due to career and financial choices).
Only then can the true level of risk and probability (as it relates to today’s older mother) be fully known.In fact, first time mothers over 35 who are healthy and who have never had any fertility problems or pre-existing medical conditions have yet to be fully studied.
So if you’re concerned about the scary statistics surrounding later life motherhood consider this advice:

  • Always look at the date of the statistic’s source.
  • What, if any, were the inclusions or exclusions of factors that affect fertility – weight, previous medical conditions, number of previous children etc.?
  • The health of women in the general population is constantly improving. A snapshot of later life pregnancy and associated complications, as they are today, will not show up in studies for several years to come.

Remember, that every woman is different and what may be a risk factor for one woman may not be relevant to you. Please know that the majority of women who have babies over age 35 have uncomplicated pregnancies and healthy babies.

Serena Kirby had her first (and only baby) at age 43. She is a freelance writer and playwright who lives in Western Australia with her 7 year old son