Special Considerations in a Pregnancy after Forty

There are many hidden health risks for a pregnant woman over the age of forty. The number of women in the United States who are giving birth between the ages of forty and fifty has literally skyrocketed in the past two decades-increasing as much as three times over since 1989. Partially due to the newest IVF techniques, the average age of women conceiving for the first time is increasing-in fact, in 2006 a 67 year old Spanish woman gave birth to twins using this technology, while in 2008, a 70-year old Indian woman became the world's oldest mommy. Many women are simply postponing motherhood as they work at their chosen career, while other women are stunned to find themselves pregnant after passing the "forty" mark.

Health Risks for Older Moms

There are many special considerations for the older mother; a marathon runner in her mid-forties woke up one morning following her pregnancy diagnosis to find herself unable to breathe. She first believed she was having a panic attack, but after being rushed to the emergency room doctors found her lungs filled with fluid-a condition known as peripartum cardiomyopathy. This is a potentially fatal condition which occurs when heart damage leaves the muscles of the heart in a weakened condition, unable to continue pumping blood efficiently and occurs in about 1 out of every 1,300 deliveries in women over the age of 40.

Cutting-edge IVF technology may enable older women to conceive, however experts caution about the increased maternal health risks involved, including cardiac conditions, and a higher risk of developing breast cancer. Doctors concede that an older woman who is in excellent physical shape, and conceives naturally can have the same type healthy pregnancy as a younger woman, but when there are even mild health problems, the risks can increase sharply. Many over-forty moms may have mild hypertension, be a bit overweight, or even be pre-diabetic, and although these health issues in themselves can be quite manageable, adding an IVF or other medically manipulated pregnancy onto them can lead to trouble.

Preeclampsia, Gestational Diabetes and Hypertension

Preeclampsia is much more common in the older woman, as is gestational diabetes. The incidence of preeclampsia is generally from 3-5%, but in the older-than-forty crowed, it increases to 10%, and to 35% if you are over 50. Pregnancy in the older mother can also prompt the onset of certain diseases that would normally have developed later on in their life. A 45-50 year old pregnant mom who would likely have developed hypertension in her sixties, may develop it during her pregnancy instead.

Breast Cancer Risk

Of special concern to those who study pregnancy-induced diseases in older moms is the breast cancer question. Many specialists believe that fertility treatments in older moms can have a direct bearing on subsequent breast cancer. The working theory is that tampering with the natural cycle of reproductive hormones can cause this increased risk of breast cancer, and a study in the U.S. showed that older women who had recently given birth following infertility treatments were more likely to develop breast cancer in the next fifteen years than their same-age peers who had not had children. A Swedish study found that women who had their first child after the age of 35 had an approximately 26% higher risk of developing cancer than women who had not given birth. It is theorized the huge levels of estrogen women experience during pregnancy can accelerate tumor growth. A hard look is also being given at the drug Clomid, as it could bring about an increased risk of ovarian tumors and endometrial cancers which are highly influenced by hormones.

Finally, the inescapable truth is that older women have older uteruses which can lead to a much higher incidence of C-sections, or any number of abnormal labor issues. If you are an older mom, it's extremely important that you have high-risk pregnancy care throughout your entire pregnancy, and that you take extra-special care of your health.

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