No matter what season of life you’re in, pregnancy is always an exciting time, but there are certain risks that are unique to each stage of a woman’s life.
While we previously wrote about how experts determined the ideal age of becoming a mom as 34, this is no assurance that getting pregnant in your 30s is a walk in the park. Let’s take a closer look at what expectant moms need to prepare for if they’re in their 20s, 30s, and 40s.
What can you read in this article?
- Pregnancy risks by age
- Pregnancy in your 20s
- Early pregnancy complications
- List of high risk pregnancy complications
Pregnancy in your 20s
Also known as your “most fertile years,” during your 20s you have a 20 percent chance of conceiving each month if you’re not on any form of birth control, according to research.
Pregnancy in your 20s has a lower risk of having hypertension and gestational diabetes. Doctors recommend exercise and a healthy diet for an easier delivery and in order to recover quickly postpartum.
As for long-term health benefits for pregnancy in your 20s, studies have found that women who started giving birth in their 20s are less prone to developing breast or ovarian cancer later on in life.
Though having a baby in your 20s poses less of a risk that you’ll have a child born with a birth or genetic defect, it’s important to note that, more kids with genetic disorders are born to women in their 20s. This is because fewer screening tests are done on younger women as opposed to those over 35.
Finally, women in their 20s only have a 9.5 percent chance of miscarriage, the lowest compared to any age group.
Pregnancy in your 20s. | Image from Dreamstime
Pregnancy in your 30s
While pregnancy in your 20s is safer, being pregnant after the of age 35, fertility continues to gradually decline, making it more difficult to conceive.
According to Women’s Health, the risk of miscarriage as well as the incidence of birth defects is higher. Conditions like hypertension and gestational diabetes also tend to occur more often. But this shouldn’t be a cause to be disheartened, but more of a motivation to be more vigilant in monitoring your health with the help of your gynecologist.
It’s interesting to note that the chances of you conceiving twins and triplets increases in your 30s, according to the CDC. Multiple pregnancies also carry with it an increased chance of having low-birth-weight or premature babies.
Prolonged and difficult labor is more likely when you are in your 30s. Often, thirty-something moms end up having C-sections due to bleeding or other issues. Labor and delivery complications, such as placenta previa, are more common in moms over 30s. The good news? A recent study found that women who give birth over 33 tend to live longer.
Pregnancy in your 40s
It no longer needs to be said that delivering in your 40s poses the most risks, but let’s still take a closer look. It’s been found that around 1/3 of pregnant women aged 40 to 44 end up having miscarriages. Low-lying placenta and low-birth weight babies are also more common in forty-something moms.
For women over 45, American researchers found that more than half end in miscarriage. Babies born to moms in their 40s face a 1 in 66 chance of being born with a chromosomal defect, such as Down Syndrome. In order to combat this, you must consistently consult with your doctor throughout your pregnancy and undergo comprehensive tests and screening to ensure a healthy and safe delivery.
There’s still good news, though. According to a recent study, women over 40 who deliver without assistive drugs tend to live longer, which researchers suspect may be due to the wealth of estrogen produced by the body. Estrogen has been known to strengthen the heart, bones, and other organs.
Pregnancy in your 20s, 30s, 40sImage from Shutterstock
Pregnancy complications list
Now that we’ve tackled a brief introduction on pregnancy risks by age, let’s look at pregnancy complications by age as well as early pregnancy complications in general.
In terms of pregnancy complications by age though, women aged 30 and up are more prone to complications.
Pregnancy complications by age 35
While early studies suggest that this age is the optimal age to get pregnant, it still comes along with some risks.
1. You may take longer to get pregnant.
You’re only given a certain amount of eggs when you’re born and these become less plentiful and of lower quality, as you approach your late 30s. In addition, older women’s eggs aren’t as easily fertilized as younger women’s eggs.
2. You are more prone to gestational diabetes.
As women get older, this type of diabetes, which only arises during pregnancy, becomes more common. It is critical to maintain strict blood sugar management through food and physical activity. Medication is sometimes required as well. Moreover, gestational diabetes, if left untreated, can cause a baby to grow substantially larger than normal, increasing the risk of injury during birth. Premature birth, high blood pressure throughout pregnancy, and difficulties for your baby after delivery are all risks associated with gestational diabetes.
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3. You are more prone to high blood pressure.
High blood pressure that develops during pregnancy, according to research, is more likely in older women. Nevertheless, your doctor will closely monitor your blood pressure as well as the growth and development of your baby.
4. You’re more likely to have a baby with low birth weight and give birth prematurely.
Premature newborns, especially those born first, are prone to a variety of medical issues.
5. You might have a C-section delivery.
Pregnancy-related difficulties in older moms are more likely to result in a C-section birth. A condition in which the placenta clogs the cervix is an example of a complication (placenta previa).
6. There is a higher risk of chromosome abnormalities
Certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, are more common among babies born to older moms.
7. There is a higher risk of miscarriage or stillbirth
As you become older, your chances of losing a pregnancy — through miscarriage or stillbirth — increase, maybe due to pre-existing medical issues or fetal chromosomal abnormalities. According to research, a drop in egg quality paired with an increased risk of chronic medical disorders like high blood pressure and diabetes may raise your chances of miscarriage.
Image from Shutterstock
Early pregnancy complications
The emotional high of knowing you’re expecting a baby can be both a happy and an overwhelming feeling. And this would be accompanied by changes in your body. While most of these changes are normal, you should still practice extra care as you go through your pregnancy. There might be symptoms that you would need to pay more attention to.
1. Vaginal Bleeding
Natali Aziz, a maternal-fetal specialist at Lucile Packard Children’s hospital says that spotting is normal but heavy bleeding can mean a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. The brighter the blood’s color is, the more significant it is.
Ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus. The most common site of an ectopic pregnancy is the fallopian tube, which transports eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. Tubal pregnancy is the name for this form of ectopic pregnancy.
In addition to heavy bleeding, you may also experience bad cramps similar to period cramps. This can also be a sign of threatened miscarriage.
2. Vaginal discharge and itching
White discharge is normal, there may be an underlying infection or sexually transmitted disease that can harm your baby in the womb. If you’re experiencing any itching or abnormal discharge, let your doctor know right away.
3. High Fever
High fever means getting 38 degrees Celsius hot or higher. This can also be accompanied by rash and joint pain. Immediately consult your doctor when you experience a fever with other symptoms as this may be an infection.
4. Excessive Nausea and vomiting
Nausea and vomiting are normal for pregnant women especially during the first trimester but if it worsens over time, consult your OB-Gyne about this, especially when it leaves you dehydrated and dizzy, or causes weight loss and imbalance of electrolytes. You might need medications or even be hospitalized.
5. Blood clots causing leg pain or headaches
In the vast majority of pregnancies, this will not occur. Pregnancy, on the other hand, increases the risk of a blood clot. A blood clot in the calf can cause pain or swelling, and it can also progress to a blood clot in the lung, which can be fatal. A severe headache may signal a blood clot in the brain. There are a variety of other factors that can contribute to severe headaches during pregnancy.
If you have a history of blood clots, it is better to consult your doctor right away.
6. Sudden intense condition of chronic diseases
Women with pre-existing medical issues such as thyroid illness, diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and/or lupus should keep track of any changes in their health during pregnancy. If your underlying disease flares up or is poorly managed, it can have major ramifications for both you and your baby’s health.
For example, Gayle Olson, a maternal-fetal specialist at the University of Texas Medical says that if your thyroid hormone is too low or high, you can be at risk of a miscarriage. The same is true if you have blood sugar levels that are not controlled. This does not increase your risk of miscarriage but also fetal abnormalities.
Photo by Yan Krukov from Pexels
List of high risk pregnancy conditions
A high risk pregnancy can manifest in various conditions and complications such as:
- Eclampsia or seizure from pregnancy
- Preeclampsia or high blood pressure from pregnancy
- Pre-term delivery
- Low or high birth weight
- Excessive bleeding during labor, delivery, and/or post-partum
- Birth defect
- Cesarean delivery
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, consult your doctor right away for immediate medical attention.
- Chest pain
- Abdominal pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Excessive nausea or vomiting
- Baby’s movement is stopping or slowing
- Severe headache
- Vaginal discharge or bleeding
- Pain, swelling in face or limbs
- Difficulty breathing
No matter what symptom or unusual feeling you are experiencing, it would be best to seek medical attention right away and not risk your pregnancy or your baby of anymore health threats. Keep your doctor in close communication with you.