Over the years, as reproductive technologies have advanced, there has been a substantial increase in successful deliveries for older women. It is common to hear of women in their late thirties or forties who have had healthy babies. Donor eggs and IVF have made miracles, with even postmenopausal women having positive pregnancy outcomes. But the picture has another side too. Pregnancy for older women is most likely to be ridden by complications.
A large number of women today want to postpone pregnancy due to education, career, or personal reasons. However, the uncertainty regarding their biological clock puts them under constant stress. Whether or not they will be able to have a family of their own is the biggest concern for them. It is vital for them to understand the risks and threats of motherhood at advanced age. Now the big question is how old is too old, because its answer can make all the difference to their decision to defer motherhood.
Pregnancy Risks for Older Women
Pregnancy for older woman should never be expected to be a smooth ride. First things first, conception itself is a challenge. Age is one of the key determinants of female infertility as older woman gradually lose on their egg reserve. Every woman is born with a finite number of eggs, which is known as her ovarian reserve. These eggs keep declining in number as she transits through her reproductive lifespan, finally coming to an end with menopause. As the woman ages, the quality of eggs deteriorate too. The chances of pregnancy, thus, dwindle for older women. At the same time, if they do get pregnant, there are numerous risks they can come across:
Gestational Hypertension and Diabetes: Older women are likely to fall prey to gestational hypertension and diabetes. Many of them may have these conditions prior to pregnancy, while others may develop them during pregnancy.
Cesarean Deliveries: High risk pregnancies like those in older women usually require C-Section deliveries. Gynecologists prefer to deliver this way because the uterus may not contract as well as it does in younger women. Pregnancy complications such as hypertension and diabetes are other reasons why C-sections are considered a safer option.
Miscarriage: The risk of miscarriage shoots up as a woman steps on the wrong side of her forties. While the average rate of miscarriage is 20%, it goes up to 25% for women over 40.
Low Birth Weight Babies: Fetal growth restriction is a common complication related to advanced maternal age. For such women, the blood flow to the fetus is compromised because her circulatory system may not be functioning well enough. As a result, the incidence of low birth weight babies is higher for older mothers. Additionally, there is an increased likelihood of premature delivery in such cases. This is another reason why older moms may have smaller babies.
Birth Defects: Older eggs are likely to be of poor quality in terms of chromosomal normalcy. Therefore, there is a high risk of genetic defects in children born to women of advanced maternal age.
In addition to these serious risks, older women might find pregnancy more challenging than their younger counterparts. They might experience back pain and muscular aches as the pregnancy advances. It happens because pregnancy tends to take greater toll on the musculoskeletal system of older women. There are some psychological implications too, as older women are more likely to face extra stress during pregnancy. Conditions such as post partum depression are also more likely to influence women of advanced age.
IVF for Older Women
All the advanced Assisted Reproductive Techniques such as IVF, ICSI, and egg donation have changed the game for older mothers. Some women might have frozen their eggs during their twenties or thirties. These eggs might now be used to yield healthy IVF pregnancies. Donor eggs from younger women are another option to make chances better for them. These advanced techniques have made pregnancy possible but stakes are still high. Women of advanced age are at high risk of pregnancy-induced stroke as pregnancy exerts extra pressure on their heart and blood vessels.
But there is still a ray of hope for them. Surrogacy can serve as an effective solution if the woman seems unfit to carry the pregnancy and give birth. Here, the patient can avail the services of a surrogate who rents out a womb to carry her baby.
What is the optimal age for safe pregnancy?
A woman is at her fertile best during her twenties and early thirties. This is the optimum age for safe pregnancy. Yet, circumstances may not allow them all to start a family during these years. Such women can resort to advanced techniques such as IVF to get pregnant during their forties. But they need constant monitoring and medical guidance throughout the pregnancy.
It is hard to decide an absolute figure when it comes to pregnancy for women of advanced maternal age. Though scientific study backs up the fact that a woman should have babies before 40, it ends up on how fit she is. A woman who is healthy in body and mind can sustain a healthy pregnancy even at a later age. At the same time, it is important to stay under the vigilance of an expert specialist.
Gaudium IVF is one of the leading IVF clinics in India. It is a trusted name when it comes to providing quality treatment with high success rates for women of advanced maternal age.
Visit today for a free second opinion from Dr Manika Khanna, the renowned infertility specialist in Delhi.