Later Childbearing

Today, more couples are starting families later in life. Older women often worry that their age will affect their fertility and the health of their babies. There is no set age that is unsafe for women to become pregnant. For women aged 35 years and older, the chances of having a normal pregnancy and healthy baby are great — especially if they get good preconception and prenatal care.

All women have some decrease in fertility starting in their early 30s. After that time, it may take longer to get pregnant. Men also have a decrease in fertility as they age.

Health Problems
Because pregnancy puts new demands on a woman’s body, the risk of complications during pregnancy is higher for older women. They are more likely to need to visit the doctor more often, need special tests, and require special care during labor and delivery.

High blood pressure poses risks to mother and baby, including problems with the placenta and with the growth of the fetus. High blood pressure also may worsen during pregnancy.

With increasing age, women also are more likely to have diabetes or to develop gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy).

Genetic Disorders
A couple’s risk of having a baby with a birth defect increases with age. Your doctor may suggest genetic counseling. Counseling often is done by a doctor or a genetic counselor (a health educator with special training in genetics, the study of inherited disorders).

Being Prepared
Women of all ages should talk to their doctors before trying to get pregnant. This is especially important for women in their 30s and 40s.

Most women have healthy pregnancies and babies. If you want to have a baby, discuss any concerns you might have with your doctor. Pregnancy and childbirth can be exciting, rewarding events. Age need not be a barrier to a safe, healthy pregnancy.

This excerpt from ACOG’s Patient Education Pamphlet is provided for your information. It is not medical advice and should not be relied upon as a substitute for visiting your doctor. If you need medical care, have any questions, or wish to receive the full text of this Patient Education Pamphlet, please contact your obstetrician-gynecologist.

To ensure the information is current and accurate, ACOG titles are reviewed every 18 months

Copyright © June 2006 The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists