Having a baby at 35+

Approaching 35? There’s still time to conceive. Fertility expert, Lisa Marsh, shares everything you need to know about having a baby in later life.

Approaching 35? There's still time to conceive.

If you are trying to conceive, it’s a time full of hope and expectation. If you are 35 years or older, it can be especially exciting, as you may have purposely waited until you feel ready to become a mother and have everything in place. You’re in good company, as more women in the UK are waiting until later to start their family. This is partially due to a variety of societal shifts in the past two generations, such as increased career opportunities, greater financial independence, a bigger emphasis on single lifestyle, education, leisure and travel, less pressure to marry and longer life expectancy. For some, it may simply be that they have waited to find the right partner with whom to have a child, or for sufficient financial stability to raise a family.

Whatever your reasons for having a baby now, there is much to celebrate and more support available to you than ever before. At Mindful Mum, we believe in emphasizing the positive, informing and supporting you in becoming and being a mother, and empowering you to take charge of this most wondrous aspect of life.

You are, no doubt, aware of daunting cautionary tales regarding fertility, pregnancy and childbirth in older mothers. It is important to take note of this information, however, not to dwell on it to the exclusion of the joy and excitement you will be feeling about this new chapter of your life. Take into account the source of the information you receive and check on anything that confuses or disturbs you. Be proactive and sensible to give yourself, and your baby, the best possible experience now and in the future.

You may know that fertility begins to decline from age 35, but you most likely won’t know if, or how, that will affect you personally until you begin trying to conceive. The fact is that every woman is born with a finite supply of eggs which depletes as she gets older. It isn’t just about the quantity of eggs, but also about the quality, that affects your chance of conception and implantation of the embryo. This varies from woman to woman, so you may wonder why your friend conceived easily at 35+, but it’s taking longer for you. What you can do to maximize your chances of conceiving:

  • Tell your doctor that you are trying to conceive and ask for a well-woman health check.
  • Keep a journal, noting the dates of your period and your ovulation, so you know the best times to try.
  • Make sure that you are actually having unprotected sexual intercourse during the period spanning a few days prior to ovulation to a few days after.
  • Consult your doctor again if you have not conceived within 6 months of trying. With your journal as evidence of your efforts, you can ask to be referred to a consultant gynaecologist if necessary.
  • Don’t delay! Every month counts from 35 on.
  • If you are trying to conceive your first child after age 35, and know that you would like to have more children in the future, you may want to look into egg freezing to guard against age-related infertility.

Most women over 35 can look forward to straightforward, healthy pregnancies and birth. There are slightly increased risks of miscarriage, gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and pre-eclampsia in older women, but these can be mitigated by a healthy and balanced regimen and good medical care. Improve your chances of a trouble- free pregnancy with these positive steps:

  • Seek appropriate medical supervision of your pregnancy, attending all appointments and scans as advised.
  • Keep your weight within a healthy range as the pregnancy proceeds by eating right and exercising moderately.
  • Ensure that both you and your partner are eating nutritiously, taking recommended supplements, stop smoking and avoid alcohol.iv
  • Keep your stress levels low by getting enough sleep, maintaining a healthy life-work balance, exercising and by joyfully celebrating the milestones of your pregnancy.

The vast majority of babies born to mothers who are 35+ are healthy and without the presence of any genetic abnormality. There is a slightly increased risk of a baby having a genetic abnormality, such as Down’s syndrome, when the mother is older (approximately 2/1,000 in women 35 – 39, 4/1,000 in women 40 – 44). The good news is:

  • Doctors, nurses and ante-natal scanning technicians will take your age into account in all your treatment and be on the look-out for any signs that your baby may be affected.
  • There are tests available to determine the presence of an abnormality, including amniocentesis and chorionic villus sampling.
  • If you have cause for concern prior to conceiving, you can opt for Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) technique, which employs IVF to test embryos for genetic disorders before they are implanted in the womb.

You can help yourself have a better birth experience and recovery by ensuring that you are physically fit, thus requiring less medical intervention. By keeping your weight gain in pregnancy to recommended rates, you are less likely to experience diabetes or pre-eclampsia, or unduly affect the baby’s birth weight. Better muscle tone will help in labour and recovery. Choosing a vaginal delivery over a Caesarian section will also eliminate post-operative issues and reduce your hospital stay.

You will have the best chance of success if you:

  • are fully informed about conception, pregnancy and childbirth
  • optimise your health and wellbeing
  • meet any actual challenges head-on
  • seek sensible advice from qualified professionals
  • are consistent in your efforts and remain positive and relaxed.

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