To get pregnant in the first place is perhaps the major complication you’ll face. If you are aged 35 to 39, it could take you a couple of years to conceive even if you are having unprotected sex twice a week. For about 82 per cent of women aged 35 to 39 it takes a year or less to conceive, for another 8 per cent it takes one to two years to conceive, leaving 10 per cent still trying after two years. So you may need to be patient.
If you’re over 35, and having problems conceiving, see your GP as soon as you can, so she can check your physical readiness for pregnancy. You may want to consider assisted conception treatments. Bear in mind that treatments, such as IVF using your own eggs, are less likely to be successful once you reach 35 and success rates decline even more rapidly in your early forties. As an older mum you are more likely to have pregnancy complications such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, placenta praevia, pre-eclampsia and premature birth.
And it’s sadly more common for older mums to have a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy.
Though the rates are still low, the risk of having a baby who is stillborn doubles once you’re over 35 years of age, and is five times as likely when you’re 40. Genetic or chromosomal defects are also more likely, with the risk of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality, such as Down’s syndrome, being highest for mums over 40.
However, your midwife or obstetrician will be well aware of these slightly increased risks for older mums during your antenatal appointments. She will explain the screening and diagnostic tests that are available to you, as well as advise you about how to stay healthy.
Some birth complications are also more likely in older mums, though this doesn’t mean that they’ll automatically happen. You may be more likely to have a longer labour, perhaps because the muscles of your uterus (womb) may not work as efficiently. You’re also more likely to have your labour induced, have an assisted birth or a caesarean section.
Be reassured that health professionals are often more vigilant when it comes to looking after older mums in the final weeks of pregnancy.
Try not to be unduly worried. The chance of any of these pregnancy or labour complications happening is small, and there’s a lot you can do to help yourself. Eating well, exercising regularly, not smoking and cutting out alcohol will help you to have a healthy pregnancy. The good news is that as a woman in your 30s, it’s likely that you already have a healthier lifestyle than you did in your 20s.
Be reassured that despite the slightly increased risks, you are still more likely to have a healthy baby than not, even if you are in your mid-40s.