Today it is not unusual for women in their 40s to be giving birth for the first time. Unfortunately, conception may be difficult; more than 50 percent have difficulties conceiving. The pregnancy risks of a 40-something woman are similar to those of a woman in her late 30s. The two risks that increase most markedly in your 40s are chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down's (the risk is one in 100 at age 40 and one in 30 at age 45) and miscarriage: According to the Danish study, the risk of miscarriage reaches about 50 percent by age 42.
Women at this age are also almost three times as likely to develop diabetes during pregnancy than moms in their 20s. You may also have more problems during delivery, such as failure to progress and fetal distress, which may help explain why first-time moms older than 40 have the highest risk of c-section — 43 percent, according to a recent study conducted at Harvard Medical School.
Pregnancy Advice for All Ages
Regardless of statistics, whatever your age, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of having a healthy baby.
- See your health-care provider for a prepregnancy visit. This is especially crucial if you have chronic health problems such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Your provider can make sure that any medications you take for these conditions are safe during pregnancy.
- Take a vitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid daily. Start before you become pregnant and continue throughout the first month of pregnancy to help prevent certain serious birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
- Get early and regular prenatal care. Working with a health-care provider to come up with a game plan for a healthy pregnancy will go a long way toward keeping you and your baby safe and sound.