• 11Apr

    Pregnancy after 40 – what are the risks?

    Pregnancy imposes a great change in the anatomy and physiology of a woman. The growing fetus has high metabolic requirements and results in weight gain. Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy bring about hemodynamic changes. All organ systems are required to perform at their optimal levels of efficiency. Any major abnormality of organ function may threaten the pregnancy and increase risk to mother of fetus. During young age, organ systems can easily adjust to increased demands of pregnancy. Though majority of healthy women after 40 have a normal outcome of pregnancy, with increasing age the capacity of human body to take up such a major stress reduces. Hence, late pregnancy after the age of 40 years is associated with health risks.

    Pregnancy after 40 risks

    Older age poses a risk to both mother and baby due to pregnancy related problems. These include:

    • Difficulty in getting pregnant.
    • Increased risk of pregnancy related complications like miscarriage.
    • Increased risk of maternal and fetal mortality.
    • Risk of hypertension.
    • Higher risk of gestational or pregnancy associated diabetes.
    • Higher chances of twin or multiple pregnancy which is associated with higher risk of complications.
    • Increases risk of Down’s syndrome baby. This syndrome occurs due to an extra copy of chromosome 21. It manifests with typical facial appearance, low IQ and poor growth.
    • Increased risk of pre-eclampsia which manifests with hypertension, protein loss in urine and swelling of legs. In severe cases, seizure may occur when it is called eclampsia.
    • Increased risk of prolonged labor, stillbirth or need for cesarean section delivery.

    How to reduce risk associated with late pregnancy?

    Though risk of pregnancy associated complications increase after the age of 40, majority of healthy women deliver a healthy baby and lead a normal life. A few steps may be taken to reduce the risk so as to have an uneventful pregnancy, delivery and post-delivery recovery.

    Regular antenatal care: Early weeks of pregnancy are crucial. Formation of organs takes place during initial 8 to 12 weeks and thereafter growth continues. Antenatal care involves clinical check-up of mother, assessment of health parameters, education of mother and provision of iron, vitamins including folic acid and calcium supplements. Intake of folic acid prevents birth defects involving brain and spinal cord. Screening for birth defect is also done.

    Majority of risk factors after 40 can be reduced with proper diet and care.

    Majority of risk factors after 40 can be reduced with proper diet and care.

    Post-natal care: After the delivery of child, care is required so as to return to pre-pregnancy level of fitness. Gradual build-up of exercise routine with nutrition is essential. Massage therapy also help in reduction of any swelling and improves muscular tone. During lactation period, nutritional supplementation especially with calcium is required.

    Balanced diet: Consume a healthy and wholesome diet. This should include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Milk and milk products are a good source of calcium and protein especially during period of lactation.

    Weight changes during pregnancy: Women with normal weight gain about 12 to 15 kilograms till the completion of pregnancy. One should achieve the recommended weight gain during pregnancy and return to earlier levels in 2 to 3 months after delivery. With weight monitoring and a balanced diet, this is possible. Excessive weight gain increases the risk of hypertension and gestational diabetes.

    Regular exercise: Special exercises during pregnancy and after delivery are recommended. 

    Stop smoking and alcohol absolutely. Consult your doctor before intake of any medication including over the counter drugs and nutritional supplements.

    Late pregnancy is a risk to the mother as well as to the growing baby. Though most of the times all goes well, there is an increased anticipated risk. Physician or midwife guidelines are always recommended to ensure positive outcome.

    Anna L.

    It’s all about health!
    I have academic background in drugs related Chemical Technology, as well as extensive professional experience in pharma and medical companies. My main area of interest is everyday life medicine. The goal of my articles is to give people informative answers to the questions that bother them, to dispel doubts and some common misbeliefs and also to inspire everyone to keep healthy lifestyle.

    More Posts

Share your thoughts about the article