A Baby at 40?

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Plenty of women have babies in their 40s today, but you should absolutely weigh both the risks and the positives.

While many women might not necessarily WANT to be pregnant at 40 or older, because of career choices and late marriages it happens more and more often. So what should can you expect?

According to Elizabeth Oldfield, M.D. of Tennessee’s Women’s Care in Nashville, having a baby in your 40s is common these days, and the majority of older mothers have normal pregnancies.  Still, the risk of complications rises after age 40:

RISKS
• The odds of conceiving are less than 5 percent each month and that half of women older than 40 have fertility issues.
• If you’re having multiples, there’s an increased chance of delivering pre-term or low-birth-weight babies.
• Your risk of chromosomal abnormalities continues to go up. (At 40, your chance of having a baby with Down syndrome is 1 in 106; at 45, it’s 1 in 30.)
 “The main risk for pregnancy after age 40 is for fetal chromosome abnormalities such as Down syndrome,” says Alison Mullaly, M.D., OB/GYN of Franklin Women’s Center. “Studies also show that women who are pregnant after age 40 have a higher risk of gestational diabetes, hypertension and C-section delivery.”

POSITIVES
• The good news? If you’re physically fit, eat well, and don’t have pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension, your overall risk of other pregnancy complications isn’t markedly higher than that of a woman in her 20s or 30s.
• You’re definitely prepared for a baby at this point in your life, whether it’s your second, third or fourth, particularly if you married late or if you’ve gone through years of fertility treatments.
• The self-confidence and perspective you’ve picked up in your life may make you more patient in dealing with a demanding newborn.
• You might have higher expectations of yourself than someone in her 20s or 30s since you’ve waited so long and perhaps invested so much to get pregnant.
• “You’re possibly more stable in a relationship, career and financially,” says Oldfield. “You may also be more emotionally mature and possess better parenting skills.”
• It’s likely you won’t have as many friends with small children at this age, so don’t hesitate to make friends with younger moms.

“Pregnancy can be great at any age,” says Mullaly. “It’s more important that you lead a healthy lifestyle with a normal weight, healthy eating habits and regular exercise,” she adds.

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.

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