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Pregnant and Over 35

The age of women in Canada giving birth for the first time has been rising at a steady pace. The proportion of births to mothers aged 30 or older has grown, from 23 percent in 1982 to 48 percent in 2003. Today, approximately 15 percent of births are to women who are older than 35 years.

Genetic risks

About one in 365 women older than 35 years of age will have a baby with Down Syndrome. This rate climbs to one in 105 for women who are 40 years of age


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Most women 35 years of age or older are offered a test called amniocentesis. An ultrasound is used to provide a visual of the uterus as a needle is inserted through the abdomen into the uterus and the amniotic sac. A small amount of fluid is withdrawn. The fetal cells collected are tested for chromosomal abnormalities. Amniocentesis carries a one percent risk of miscarriage.

Potential complications:

1) During pregnancy:

  • Miscarriage.
  • Gestational diabetes. 
  • Increased blood pressure 
  • Multiple births: twins, triplets or more.
  • Increased risk of bleeding in pregnancy.
  • Slower growth of the baby.

2) During labour:

  • Longer labour.
  • Increased chance of caesarian section.

3) After the birth:

  • Increased bleeding/hemorrhage from the placenta not being expelled as easily
  • Emotional or marital difficulties related to the transition to parenthood. emotional and socio-economic factor.

The greatest challenge for older women is the transition to parenthood – the changes in lifestyle, isolation from career and coworkers, the separation from family, the expectation of being a perfect mother to a perfect baby and more. But because they are more mature, women older than 35 and their partners are often less vulnerable to the upsets experienced with parenting compared to younger couples, and they are often more financially secure. Babies born to these couples are usually carefully planned and wanted, which can give them an added advantage.

During the prenatal period:

  • Look at your nutrition (consider meeting with a nutritionist or dietitian).
  • Get prenatal care early in the pregnancy.
  • Have regular medical check-ups.
  • Get informed. Books, Internet, prenatal classes, public health nurse and your doctor or midwife are valuable sources.
  • Exercise, rest and try to reduce stress. Quality medical care during pregnancy, and the good health of many Canadian women over 35, go a long way toward a happy outcome. Enjoy your pregnancy!

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