More women today are delaying motherhood to get an education or pursue a career. But at some point, questions naturally arise about biological clocks and when they start ticking.

When you wait to conceive until your mid-30s or later, it doesn’t automatically mean trouble. But there are a few things to consider. Some risks do become more pronounced as a woman ages.

Here’s what you should know about becoming pregnant after age 35.

Q:

At what age is a pregnancy considered high-risk?

A:

There is not a universally agreed upon age when pregnancy becomes high-risk. But we do know that beginning in the mid-30s, fertility declines and risks of complications increase. Women in their 40s and 50s can have healthy pregnancies. See your doctor or midwife if you are concerned about your age or other risk factors you may have.

Kim Dishman, WHNPAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

You may have a harder time becoming pregnant

A woman is born with a set number of eggs. By your 30s and 40s, those eggs will have decreased both in quantity and quality. It’s also true that a younger woman’s eggs become fertilized more easily. If you’re in your mid-30s and you haven’t conceived after six months of trying, speak to your doctor.

You have a higher chance of carrying multiples

The odds of having twins or triplets goes up as a woman ages. If you’re using fertility treatments to become pregnant, the chance of conceiving multiples increases even more. Carrying more than one baby at a time can pose complications, including:

  • premature birth
  • preeclampsia
  • growth problems
  • gestational diabetes

You may experience more pregnancy complications

Gestational diabetes becomes more common with age. It means you have to follow a strict diet to control your blood sugar. Medication may be necessary, too. If gestational diabetes isn’t treated, it can impact your baby’s growth and development.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is also more common during pregnancy in older women. This condition requires monitoring. It can also require medication.

Your baby may be born prematurely and have a lower birth weight

A baby born before 37 weeks is considered premature. Premature babies are more likely to have health problems.

You may need a cesarean delivery

When you’re an older mother, your risk of complications that might warrant a cesarean delivery becomes greater. These complications might include placenta previa. This is when the placenta blocks the cervix.

Your baby has a greater risk of certain birth defects

Chromosomal abnormalities, like Down syndrome, become more likely in babies born to older mothers. Heart malformation is another risk.

You have a greater chance of miscarriage and stillbirth

As you get older, the odds of pregnancy loss increase.

Tips for staying healthy during a high-risk pregnancy

There’s no way to guarantee a healthy pregnancy and baby. But taking good care of yourself prior to pregnancy and taking care of your baby during your pregnancy is crucial, whatever your age. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Make a prepregnancy appointment

Before conceiving, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your lifestyle and health. This is when you can bring up any concerns you may have, ask for tips for improving your chances of conception, and get feedback about lifestyle changes.

Attend all prenatal appointments

During your pregnancy, schedule and attend regular prenatal visits. These appointments are important for monitoring your health and the health of your baby. It’s also an opportunity to discuss any concerns you may have as your pregnancy progresses.

Maintain a healthy diet

A daily prenatal vitamin is important. During pregnancy, you’ll need additional folic acid, vitamin D, calcium, and other nutrients. Your daily diet matters, too. Drink plenty of water and try to eat healthy foods like fruits and vegetables.

Continue exercising

It’s important to stay active during your pregnancy. Regular physical activity can keep your energy levels high and improve your general health. It can also make labor and delivery easier and help you recover faster postpartum.

Be sure to get your doctor’s approval before you start a new exercise program, and get the green light to continue your current program, too. You may need to modify some activities.

Avoid unnecessary risks

You should forgo alcohol, tobacco, and recreational drugs during your pregnancy. If you take other medications or supplements, check with your doctor first.

Prenatal testing for a high-risk pregnancy

The risks of birth defects are higher when you’re an older mother. Your doctor will probably recommend prenatal tests. There are several available tests, including maternal blood screening and cell-free fetal DNA screening.

During these tests, your blood is screened to determine if your baby is at risk for certain abnormalities. These tests don’t offer definitive answers, but if they show an increased risk, you may opt for a diagnostic test. Amniocentesis and chorionic villus samplings will provide information about your baby’s chromosomes.

There is a small risk of miscarriage associated with these tests. Speak with your doctor for more information.

Next steps

If you’re pregnant or ready to conceive in your mid to late 30s, it’s important to be aware of the risks. Doing what you can to keep yourself healthy is the best way to take care of your baby-to-be.

Q:

What does it mean that my pregnancy is considered high-risk?

A:

When a woman is pregnant and she has risk factors, this tells us that she has an increased chance of having a problem. This means we want to keep a careful eye on her health and the health of her pregnancy. Some risk factors are more important than others. Depending on what risk factors are present, we may change the schedule of office visits, or change the types of tests we want to perform. 

Kim Dishman, WHNP Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.