Safe Pregnancy after Thirty-Five
Many women are marrying later, and some postpone having children until their thirties. So the number of women becoming pregnant after the age of 35 has increased, posing a number of potential problems. Chances for conception decrease with age. The incidence of miscarriage and premature birth is slightly higher in later-life pregnancies. So is the likelihood that the mother will develop diabetes or high blood pressure. The chances that a baby will be born with a genetic defect increases, too. So along with other health considerations, a pregnant woman in her midthirties or older should take these added precautions.
Don't gain more than 25 or 30 pounds during pregnancy, and don't eat foods high in salt and sugar, to guard against high blood pressure and diabetes.Talk to your doctor about prenatal genetic tests.
Usually performed at about 16 weeks of pregnancy, amniocentesis can detect Down's syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease,sickle cell anemia, Rh incompatibility, or spina bifida. (Amniocentesis will also reveal the sex of the child, but it's never done for that purpose alone.) The doctor uses a long needle to draw out a sample of amniotic fluid, which is tested for genetic abnormalities. The test itself presents some risk--there is about 1 chance in 400 that a miscarriage may occur within three weeks after the procedure is performed.
Amniocentesis is justified under the following conditions.
The pregnant woman is 35 years old or older.
Someone in the mother's or father's immediate family (a parent, sibling, or child) has a geneticor metabolic disorder.
There is a family history of hemophilia (a bleeding disorder) or spina bifida (a neural tube defect).
An earlier pregnancy produced a baby with chromosome abnormalities.
Amniocentesis can't detect abnormalities such as a club foot or cleft palate, so normal results don't necessarily guarantee a normal baby.
Another technique called chorionic villous sampling analyzes a small sample of the placenta and can be performed much earlier than amniocentesis, in the eighth to tenth week of pregnancy. The earlier testing is done, the more time the prospective parents and their doctor have to decide on the best course of action.