Pregnancy in Older Women
Most women who decide to have children after 40 give birth to healthy babies. However, pregnancy after 40 can still pose additional risks and possible complications to both mother and child. Preparing yourself, physically and psychologically can help you have a successful pregnancy as well as prepare for any unintended outcomes. Consult an experienced obgyn in Lafayette if you decide to get pregnant after 40.
Seeing a Doctor
The likelihood of suffering from common health problems, such as diabetes or high blood pressure increases with age. These conditions will likely impair an older woman’s ability to conceive. Schedule a preconception consultation with your OBGYN or primary caregiver to assess your reproductive health. The doctor will perform routine exams such as a Pap smear and pelvic exam, and talk to you about the risks and expectations you should have. He or she will inform you about the lifestyle changes you need to make to improve your chances of conceiving, but this will require that you be honest about your current lifestyle.
The doctor will need to know your medical history, as well as any kind of medication you’re taking that might affect the pregnancy or breastfeeding. Because certain health problems like high blood pressure get worse with age, you may have to address these issues before getting pregnant. Your doctor may also check your blood work for immunity diseases like chickenpox. If there are, take every immunization recommended. Lastly, he or she will check your ovarian reserve to assess if good eggs are still there.
Manage existing health problems before trying to conceive. If there’s any risk you have an STI, get tested immediately. Sexually transmitted diseases can inhibit your ability to conceive. Fortunately, most STIs can be effectively treated with antibiotics. If you’re suffering from chronic conditions such as hypothyroidism, ensure you have it under control. You will require regular testing throughout the pregnancy, and the doctor may alter the dosage as the pregnancy progresses.
Start eating a healthier diet. During the pregnancy, your body will need increased amounts of nutrients to support you and the baby. You need to make dietary changes (throughout the pregnancy) to include foods like whole grains, and a wide variety of vegetables and fruits. Get extra proteins preferably from lean meats, eggs, legumes, and nuts. Fish is also a good source of proteins but certain types that may be high in mercury should be avoided. Avoid harmful substances like smoking, drinking alcohol, and taking recreational drugs, as these can be harmful to the fetus. Engage in pregnancy-safe exercises before, during, and after the pregnancy.
Be Aware of the Risks
Consider the risks of chromosomal birth defects, as they are higher in infants born to women over 40 years old. Every woman is born with a set number of eggs, and healthier eggs tend to be released at a younger age, whereas defective eggs are more likely to be released last. Thus, the doctor will recommend testing for chromosomal abnormalities, such as aneuploidy (abnormal number of chromosomes). Chromosomal abnormalities may cause disabilities such as Down Syndrome. Cell Free DNA test can be used to detect fetal abnormalities.
Carefully consider the increased possibility of pregnancy loss, whether by stillbirth or a miscarriage. Ensure you are well prepared for the emotional impact a pregnancy loss can have, as it can be very traumatic to a person. The doctor can advise on what to do to reduce the chances of pregnancy loss.