When a woman of 35 years or more becomes pregnant, she is deemed to be of advanced maternal age. As a female gets older, her egg stores diminish and the remaining ones might not be as viable and healthy as they were during the post puberty period.
Medical experts (obstetricians) highly recommend women past the age of 35 years to seek advanced health care during pregnancy as they have higher risks of complicated pregnancies. Though not all women experience complications, obstetricians have to give close medical attention, in case of any emergency.
Risks Associated with Advanced Maternal Age Pregnancy
Down syndrome is a notable pregnancy risk for women in this age group. It is a chromosomal defect believed to be caused by aging eggs. When women reach 40 years, approximately one in every 400 of them have a risk of giving birth to an infant with Down syndrome. For women past this age, the risk of this condition becomes particularly high – by the age of 49, an estimated one in every 12 pregnant women will conceive infants with Down syndrome. Your obstetrician will demand for chronic villous sampling (CVS) or amniocentesis to assess the possibility of Down syndrome in the fetus.
This age is also associated with the risk of having a fraternal twin pregnancy. Besides age, the total number of pregnancies also comes into focus. For instance, if a 35-year old woman becomes pregnant and she has had four pregnancies prior to the current one, then she is 2-3 times likely to give birth to fraternal twins.
Other Health Risks
As women grow older, they are more prone to conditions and diseases related to aging, such as, hypertension, arthritis, and diabetes. A number of these conditions, coupled with the general age of the body, can easily increase the risk of pregnancy-induced hypertension, premature labour and gestational diabetes.
Risks Associated with Tests performed on Women of Advanced Maternal Age Pregnancies
The two common tests recommended for women with advanced maternal age pregnancy, amniocentesis and CVS, are known to increase the possibility of miscarriage. However, this possibility is less than one-percent. Note that these tests are not mandatory and are not necessary for obstetric care; hence the woman ought to weigh the risks of undergoing amniocentesis and CVS with the gains of undergoing early tests to detect any possible health conditions that may affect the fetus. CVS is conducted in the initial stages of the pregnancy, but it tends to cause more problems than amniocentesis which is conducted later on.
Managing Advanced Maternal Age Pregnancy
The management of advanced maternal age patients depends on what the individual prefers. Generally, patients ought to be offered screening tests during the pregnancy period to evaluate if the woman faces potential risks. A common test involves drawing blood from the woman and examining hormone levels according to the stage of the pregnancy.
Today, ultrasounds can be performed to check the “nuchal translucency” or, simply, the thin fat pad found at the back of the fetus’ neck. This is vital for Down syndrome infants that usually have a thick nuchal fold.
Another effective tool used in the management of maternal age pregnancies is the detailed ultrasound (Level II). This also aids in the screening of chromosomal abnormalities, including, neural tube defects, Patau syndrome, Edwards syndrome and Down syndrome.
The advancement of technology in the medical world has also made it possible to conduct tests that trace the tiny amounts of DNA released by the infant into its mother’s bloodstream. These tests can detect any deformities and are more effective when combined with other related medical tests.
No matter which single test or combination of test is performed, patients must always remember that these tests are only meant to screen for abnormalities and not to diagnose any complication or condition. These tests are not very efficient in pointing out where the problem in the woman’s body. In addition, it has been discovered that most of these screening tests produce high rates of false positive results. Thus, it is vital for patients to understand the possibilities of such mishaps to avoid any unnecessary worries in case a positive result is obtained during testing. If a positive test is obtained, the mother must be undergo counseling and undertake further invasive tests to confirm the diagnosis.
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