First Trimester

This is what reduces the risks of getting pregnant at older age!

November 13 , 2019
Nicky Langley
Nicky Langley is a mother of four and a professional Doula, Hypnobirthing teacher and Breastfeeding Supporter....More

I have been working as a doula in Dubai now for almost seven years and up I would say that the majority of women I act as doula for are on average 35 years of age or above.

I think it is likely that Dubai attracts a lot of professional women who are keen to get their working life on track prior to falling pregnant and often have the intention of returning to work at the end of their maternity leave and therefore leave planning a pregnancy until later on in life. 

How does late pregnancy become popular?

In western society (which makes up the majority of my clients) there is no longer an unwritten expectation that women get married early and settle down to give birth and raise their children! 
I was married at 20 and had my first child at the age of 23 (swiftly followed by 3 more children…). This was considered pretty normal in the 1980s!

Today at least 15% of birthing mums are aged 35 years or over, the percentage in 1990 was 8%!  The average age at first birth in USA is approximately 26 years of age which is a record high for USA.

What are the reasons couples usually delay their pregnancies for?

Reasons why parents are having their families later in life are varied but generally the following factors are important:

  • More women are reaching higher education levels.
  • Changing social expectations
  • Lack/expense of childcare, less involvement by family (especially when living abroad)
  • Divorce/multiple marriages
  • Fertility treatment 

Risks of getting pregnant at older age

I have worked with mums and dads in their 40s and with an increase in maternal age comes issues to be considered and I find myself helping parents to navigate their way through any obstacles they come across.

Advanced Maternal Age is deemed to be age 35 or older and it is common to hear mums saying that they have been told by their obstetrician that they are likely to be induced or offered Caesarean Section at 39 weeks if baby hasn’t already arrived. 

Evidence suggests that there are indeed some increased risks with mums giving birth later in life and the most likely you will hear are:

  • Some genetic risks are more common.  The risk of Down Syndrome increases with mother’s age.
  • Increased risk of miscarriage
  • Risk of stillbirth

Many different studies will back up many of the risks we have talked about, although it is possible to find contradictory information on any subject regarding pregnancy and birth! 

One thing we do know though is that a healthy mum will reduce any of those risks.  The general consensus is that there are small increases in risk of many health problems as a mum gets older.  The fact is that general health risks rise due to age for all of us, not just for pregnant women. 

One amazing fact is that breastfeeding rates are significantly higher in mums aged 35 plus.

From my experience as a doula, how I see pregnancy at older age

As a doula, I find it very interesting working with older mums.  These are often women who have worked in high powered business environments, ladies who are used to understanding how things work and being in control. 

However, they often feel lost, frightened and powerless when faced with pregnancy and birth, subjects they are completely unfamiliar with. 

I like to spend time with these couples, giving them information and hopefully confidence. 

It is incredibly important to be able to access good evidence and information as these couples are often faced with decisions to be made about their pregnancy and birth, and it is much easier to do that if they have access to good information. 

Places I suggest they look at are: www.evidencebasedbirth.com and also www.cochranelibrary.com

Another important factor is that if these parents are well informed and are up to date with evidence regarding issues surrounding their age, then they are able to “fight their corner”, rather than blindly following any course of action that is suggested by their OB. 

I am never suggesting that the OBs suggestions should be disregarded, just that all factors should always be taken into consideration so that mums and dads feel involved in the decision-making process which in turn tends to help with the birth experience.

I would urge any mum who is planning a pregnancy at “advanced maternal age” to spend time finding an OB who is supportive of their wishes and who they trust. 

This is the case with any pregnancy but more especially with a pregnancy that is considered to be at “higher risk”. 

Good luck to all you new mums old or young!