Time was when it was appropriate to have one’s first child in one’s mid-20s. Now, most women choose to wait till 30 before taking the plunge. There is also a small but significant number of women who are having their first-borns in their 40s.
The reason lies in a dynamic social and economic landscape, which has brought about a change in mindsets. First, people are getting married later. Second, more and more women are working. The rising divorce rate also leads to late births as many men and women want to have a child with their new partner. Finally, advances in medicla science have brought about fertility treatments that help couples have children after many years.
Less Fertile Over 35
With increasing age, the probability of becoming pregnant decreases. The ovaries begin to age and ovulation at 35 is no longer as smooth as when you’re 25. In addition, the ovaries contain fewer eggs. Here’s the math. The female embryo has 2 million eggs at the onset of the first period, there are 400,000 eggs and by the age of 35, only 35,000 eggs remain. Besides, the later the birth, the greater the possibility of a chromosomal disorder in the embryo, leading to miscarriage even before the pregnancy is detected.
What Are The Risks?
The most fertile and safest time to get pregnant is at age 24. In the mid-30s, your chances of becoming pregnant, per cycle, are about 10 per cent. Of course, there are marked individual differences andhealth and psychological factors also play a role.
The 35-year old mother is considered a ’risk pregnancy’. Studies have repeatedly shown that there is a higher risk for both mother and baby, which cannot be ignored. Here’s why:
- The risk of pre-eclampsia (hypertension during pregnancy) increases. Approximately one in seven pregnant woman in their late 30s is treated for pre-eclampsia, but only one in ten has a major problem.
- Likewise, the risk of developing gestational diabetes increases. Pregnant women over 35 who suffer from diabetes are likely to have fibroids (20 per cent of women over 35). These are benign tumors in the uterus but grow rapidly during pregnancy, and take away the baby’s nutrients and push it into an awkward birth position.
- Pregnancy pplaces a burden on the mother’s heart, circulatory system and metabolism. This is only greater in pregnant women over 35.
- Since ’late’ expectant mothers are scrupulous about screening, possible risks are quickly identified and treated
Prenatal Diagnosis: Is It Important?
Childern born of late pregnancies are more prone to be affected by chromosomal abnormalities. That is, they get either too much or too little genetic information. The most common deviation is known as Down’s Syndrome (or Trisomy 21), when a child has three instead of two chromosomes. This disorder is easily identified through diagnostic screening.
Caesarean Or Natural?
First-time mothers over 35 are twice as likely to have a Caesarean section. In older women, the cervix often does not expand long enough during labour. Other reasons include an abnormal foetal position and premature detachment of the placenta. Since soctors don’t want to take a chance and jeopardise the mother or baby, they recommend a Caesarean section.