Pregnant over 40: what are the potential complications?

Pregnant over 40 are increasing in many countries. There are many personal, professional, and societal reasons.

In addition, medical advances have enabled many women over 40 to conceive who previously would not have been able to. (For instance, assisted reproductive technologies for couples with infertility and treatments for many serious diseases).

 While becoming pregnant at this age becomes more difficult, pregnant women over 40 are also at a higher risk of complications during pregnancy. Still there is a good news. In many cases, with good pre-natal care, these risks can be managed. Many pregnant women over 40 give birth to healthy babies. 

How to achieve this?  Studies show that pregnancy outcomes in women over 40 can be greatly improved. Especially if the future mom seeks pre-conception counseling and successfully treats. She should manage any pre-existing illnesses. An example is diabetes or hypertension.  While it is important for pregnant women of any age to attend all recommended pre-natal visits. It is even more important for pregnant over 40 to be closely monitored. This is for any possible complications of pregnancy.

Pregnant over 40 should:

  • Follow a healthy lifestyle.
  • give birth in a hospital with an in-house neo-natologist intensive care nursery.

This optimizes pregnancy outcomes.

WHAT ARE THE RISKS FOR A PREGNANT OVER 40?

Pregnant over 40 are more likely to have already developed chronic diseases. (high-blood pressure, diabetes, other autoimmune conditions, cancers). They may have had pre-pregnancy medications or other therapies. Pregnancy complications that are more frequent over 40 include a higher risk of:

  • having twins (or more multiples).
  • pregnancy-induced diabetes.
  • pregnancy-induced hypertension.
  • pre-eclampsia.
  • complications of swelling in the legs, blood clots.
  • protein in the urine.
  • pre-term labor and a 4-times greater risk of having a  caesarean section.

Chances of ending pregnancy with a caesarean section are four times higher.

Dietl A. et al. Pregnancy and Obstetrical. Outcomes in Women Over 40 Years of Age. Geburtshilfe und Fraunheilkunde 2015 Aug; 75(8): 827–832.

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