With more celebrities, like Jewel and Victoria Beckham, having babies in their late 30s and beyond, more women in general are getting pregnant later in life. But just because a few high-profile women have healthy pregnancies doesn’t mean pregnancy at an older age is risk-free to mom or baby. We talked with Fit Pregnancy editor-in-chief Peg Moline about the trend of women getting pregnant in their 30s and 40s and what women need to know if they are considering conceiving later in life.
The influence of celebrity pregnancies
If you keep up with the celebrity baby bumps, you’re well aware of the growing number of A-list ladies having babies in their 30s and 40s. Most recently, 37-year-old singer-songwriter Jewel, the cover girl on the latest issue of Fit Pregnancy, and hubby Ty Murray welcomed their son Kase Townes Murray into the world on July 11. Jewel joins fashionista Victoria Beckham in a late 30-something pregnancy. Beckham had baby No. 4 the day before.
Fit Pregnancy editor-in-chief Peg Moline says more women are taking the celeb mom cues and getting pregnant at a later age. “Celebrities waiting to have their babies later in life has had a huge influence on the general population; they see these successful women waiting until their careers are established to have a first (like Jewel) or continuing to have third and even fourth children later in their 30s (like Victoria Beckham), and they figure they can do it, too,” the health and fitness expert explains. “More children are now born to women 35 and older than to teenagers, according to a 2010 Pew Research Center survey. One in seven U.S. births is now to women 35 and older (in 1970, it was just 1 in 100).”
Risks of TTC in your 30s and 40s
You may want to wait until your career is well-established or until you’ve gotten that PhD, but in addition to an increased risk of health problems for your baby, trying to conceive later in life may prove a disappointing if not devastating endeavor.
“Probably the biggest risk for women who want to get pregnant after age 35 is infertility,” explains Moline. “Natural fertility begins to gradually decline at 30 (the infertility rate for women age 26 to 29 is nine percent, increasing to 15 percent for 30- to 34-year-olds), although the odds that fertility treatments will work remain high. One in five women in this age group will have trouble conceiving, with fertility nosediving at 38 years old. After age 40, one-third of women will struggle with infertility.”
Moline warns that the risk for birth defects and miscarriage rises with age as well. “At age 38, the risk of any chromosomal abnormality is 1 in 100 — which is why women over 35 are advised to do prenatal testing such as CVS and amniocentesis,” she adds. “Also there is greater risk for hypertension, gestational diabetes and twins after 35.”
Healthy pregnancy tips for older women
Before you start doubting your desire to have a baby later in your life, being an older mom does have its advantages. “The upside of being an older mother is that maturity is established, as are most women’s careers and relationships,” says Moline. “Women have had their fun and are more than ready to settle down.” This means you can be more focused on having a healthy pregnancy.
Whether you’re planning to conceive next year or five-plus years from now, commit to a healthy lifestyle — today. Moline suggests “really cleaning up your act before you get pregnant” by losing weight, stop smoking, and adopting clean and healthy eating habits. The healthier you are before you conceive, the higher your chances of having a healthy pregnancy.
Maintain a healthy pregnancy weight
Regardless of age, maintaining a healthy weight during pregnancy is better for mom and baby. Moline urges moms-to-be to manage their pregnancy weight through healthful eating and exercise. And keep in mind, pregnancy aside, losing weight gets tougher as we age. Be careful that you don’t overdo on “eating for two”.
What you put in and on your body directly impacts your unborn baby. “Follow your doctors orders to cut out alcohol and recreational drugs, and stay away from known toxins and harmful foods,” Moline stresses.
Get plenty of rest and relaxation
Even if you’re used to pulling all-nighters to meet work deadlines or thrive on high-stress days, being pregnant isn’t the time to push your limits. Prioritize getting adequate sleep every night and take the time to pamper yourself to help manage the stresses that come with being pregnant and bringing a baby into your life.
Don’t push the odds
Though with the help of egg donors, women past the age of 45 can successfully carry babies, you’re putting your health and the health of your baby at risk the longer you wait. Moline adds, “Our experts warn that women 45 and older are more likely to be obese, a factor in fertility, miscarriage, gestational diabetes, hypertension and other complications, even if they are pregnant via a young woman’s donor egg.”