Becoming A Mom at 35: Am I Really of Advanced Maternal Age?

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In major US cities like San Francisco, Boston, and New York, the average age for a woman to have her first child is over 30. That’s only the average: Some women are becoming moms at 40 just like others are becoming moms at 20. And it’s only for the first child: If a woman’s first child is at 32, she may be having more children throughout her 30s and even into her 40s. All in all, in the US today, having a baby at age 35 or older is completely normal. So why do doctors call it “advanced maternal age?”
Perhaps the term isn’t the most flattering, but “advanced maternal age” refers to an important threshold when it comes to being pregnant. Age 35 is when risks for certain complications tend to go up. This is far from meaning that having a baby in the latter half of your 30s is a no-go. Rather, it means your provider will monitor your pregnancy more closely and recommend that you take some additional precautions.

Get Tested for Chromosomal Abnormalities
Because being older when you conceive increases the risk that your baby could have certain chromosomal abnormalities, your doctor will recommend prenatal noninvasive testing. This screening test uses a simple blood draw to check for certain genetic disorders during the first trimester of pregnancy. Studies have shown that a 35-year-old woman has about three times the risk of having a child with Down syndrome compared to a 30-year-old woman. Noninvasive prenatal testing includes screening for Down syndrome (trisomy 21) and can check for other conditions that may be of concern.
Eat Well and Keep Moving
Gestational diabetes causes a woman’s blood sugar to rise during pregnancy, which can be harmful for both mother and baby. A woman with gestational diabetes also has a greater risk of developing preeclampsia, a dangerous condition where her blood pressure rises steeply. While any pregnant woman should watch out for gestational diabetes or preeclampsia, they are more common in over-35 pregnancies. The best measure for prevention is a healthy lifestyle: Consider working with a nutritionist to make sure you’re getting all the proper nutrients to help your baby grow, without giving in to cravings for sweets. And make sure to have fun with ways to get moving with your belly! Connect with a walking buddy, join a prenatal aqua aerobics class, or relax and stretch with yoga. To ensure you’re on track, your doctor will calculate your optimum weight gain based on your pre-pregnancy weight and let you know how you’re doing at each appointment.
Take a Folic Acid Supplement
Birth defects are another concern for women who are having a baby in the latter half of their thirties or into their forties. Neural tube defects, or problems with how the baby’s spinal cord forms during the first trimester, is one of the most preventable birth defects that can occur. Taking a folic acid supplement (containing at least 400 micrograms of folic acid) is the key measure for prevention since folic acid is necessary for the neural tube to develop properly. Because the first trimester is the critical time for neural tube formation, start taking folic acid as soon as you begin trying to get pregnant, if possible. Otherwise, start your supplement as soon as you get that positive pregnancy test.


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