August 4, 2022


October 17, 2022

What to Know About Geriatric Pregnancies

A pregnancy over the age of 35 is often referred to as a “geriatric pregnancy”. Here’s everything you need to know if you’re of advanced maternal age.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Nicolette Natale

Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine

In this article:

What is a geriatric pregnancy?

Pregnancy can be a happy experience for any person, but what if you're older? Age can affect your health, including your ability to conceive and carry a child to term. If you're over 35, you may be at higher risk for some pregnancy complications. 

A geriatric pregnancy is a pregnancy that takes place in a person over the age of 35. As you age, your fertility declines, and you risk developing certain medical conditions that complicate your pregnancy.

Several risks are associated with geriatric pregnancy, including an increased risk of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, preterm labor, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. The key is to work closely with your healthcare team to manage any risks that may be present. 

Regarding fertility, age is the most significant factor that comes into play. As you age, your eggs become less viable, and you have a reduced chance of conceiving. The older you are, the greater your risk of experiencing a miscarriage.

Health conditions are also more common in older women, complicating pregnancy. Medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and autoimmune diseases can make pregnancy riskier.

Geriatric pregnancies also increase the risk of premature birth and low birth weight babies. Therefore, it's important to be closely monitored by your healthcare team throughout your pregnancy.

If you're over the age of 35 and considering pregnancy, be sure to talk to your doctor about all the risks involved.


A quick definition of geriatric pregnancy

A geriatric pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs in a person over the age of 35. The term "geriatric" is used because the risks of pregnancy and childbirth increase with age. Several risks are associated with geriatric pregnancy, including an increased risk of miscarriage, preterm labor, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia. Geriatric pregnancy is also associated with a higher risk of chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down Syndrome, in the baby.

As modern medicine has improved, the number of geriatric pregnancies has increased. With advances in technology, women can now have children later. However, it is important to be aware of the risks associated with geriatric pregnancy to make an informed decision about whether to have children at an older age. When in doubt, speak with your doctor.


Risks of a geriatric pregnancy

A geriatric pregnancy is usually considered a high-risk pregnancy compared to normal pregnancy. Pregnant people over age 35 are more likely to miscarry, have a baby with a genetic abnormality, or develop a medical condition during their pregnancy. They're also more likely to need a C-section.

Having a baby as an older adult also puts the baby at risk. Older mothers are likelier to have a baby with low birth weight or other health problems.

There are also social risks involved in having a baby later. Women who have children later may have difficulty balancing work and family commitments. They may also have trouble finding childcare and rely on family members or friends to help care for their child.

When deciding whether to have a child later, carefully weigh the risks and benefits. Consulting with a doctor or fertility specialist can help you make an informed decision.

Physical risks associated with the pregnant person's health include: 

  • An increased chance of miscarrying
  • A greater chance of developing gestational diabetes
  • A higher likelihood of needing a Caesarean section
  • A greater chance of experiencing high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • A heightened chance of the baby being born prematurely
  • An increased risk of the baby having a low birth weight

Risks to the baby's health include: 

  • A greater chance of having a genetic disorder
  • A greater chance of being born prematurely
  • A higher likelihood of having a low birth weight
  • A heightened chance of developing health problems in childhood and adulthood

Social risks associated with later-in-life pregnancies include:

  • Difficulty balancing work and family commitments
  • Trouble finding childcare
  • Reliance on family members or friends for help with childcare
  • Isolation from peers


Benefits of a geriatric pregnancy

Having a baby later can also have some significant benefits. Women who wait to have children until they're older may have more stable relationships, financial security, and established careers. They're also more likely emotionally and mentally ready to be parents.

Older mothers are also more likely to have healthier pregnancies. They're less likely to smoke or drink during pregnancy, and they're more likely to get prenatal care. As a result, they are more likely to give birth to healthy babies.

Despite the risks, having a baby later can be a rewarding experience. If you're considering having a baby a bit older, talk to your health care provider or a fertility specialist to learn more about the risks and benefits.

Some of the benefits of having a baby later are: 

  • You have a more stable relationship with your partner, leading to a more supportive family environment for your child.
  • You're more likely to be emotionally and mentally ready to be a parent.
  • You have a stronger financial foundation to provide for your family.
  • You likely have a more established career, providing additional stability for your family.
  • Maturity allows you to better deal with the stress of parenting.
  • You have a more extensive support network of family and friends to help you with childcare.
  • Older mothers are more likely to have healthier pregnancies due to less risky behaviors like smoking or drinking. As a result, their babies are more likely to be born healthy.
  • Wiser decision-making can lead to a more relaxed parenting experience.


Recommended tests during pregnancy

It is important to focus on assessing and preventing risks to both the pregnant person and the fetus throughout all the stages of the pregnancy.

You will want to focus on:

  • Routine pregnancy care: This includes monitoring the pregnant person's weight, blood pressure, and urine for protein throughout the pregnancy. The pregnant person should also be seen frequently by her healthcare provider to monitor the pregnancy and the baby's growth.
  • Fetal monitoring: This includes monitoring the baby's heart rate and movements and performing ultrasounds to check on the baby's growth and development.
  • Preventive measures: This includes taking steps to prevent complications such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and infection. These measures may include eating a healthy diet, getting enough rest, following up with your physician to get appropriate screening tests, and avoiding certain activities that could risk the pregnant person or the baby.

Some tests are specific to a geriatric pregnancy. These tests may be recommended based on the person's age, medical history, and other factors.

These tests may include:

  • Chorionic villus sampling (CVS): This test is typically performed between 10 and 13 weeks of pregnancy. It involves taking a sample of the placenta to check for genetic abnormalities.
  • Amniocentesis: This test is typically performed between 15 and 20 weeks of pregnancy. It involves taking a sample of the amniotic fluid to check for genetic abnormalities.
  • Non-stress test: This test is typically performed after week 32 of pregnancy. It involves monitoring the baby's heart rate in response to movements.
  • Biophysical profile: This test is typically performed after week 32 of pregnancy. It involves completing an ultrasound to assess the baby's movement, breathing, muscle tone, and amniotic fluid level.
  • Doppler flow studies: These tests may be performed throughout the pregnancy to assess the blood flow to the placenta and the baby.
  • Percutaneous umbilical blood sampling (PUBS): This test may be performed after week 32 of pregnancy. It involves taking a sample of the baby's blood from the umbilical cord to check for genetic abnormalities.


How to lower your chances of complications during pregnancy

Geriatric pregnancies are at a higher risk for complications, so it is important to know what you can do to lower your chances.

How to lower your risk of complications during pregnancy:

  • Keep all of your prenatal appointments.
  • Keep your blood pressure and sugar levels under control.
  • Get tested for any infections, such as HIV or hepatitis, and start treatment immediately if any are found.
  • Do not smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs.
  • If you are overweight, try to get to a healthy weight before you become pregnant.
  • Talk to your doctor about any medications you are taking, as some may need to be changed during pregnancy.

If you have twins or more, you may need to be especially careful to lower your risk of pregnancy complications. Your doctor may recommend more frequent prenatal appointments, and you may need to take special care to control your blood pressure and sugar levels. You may also need to be on a special diet and take extra vitamins.

The experience of pregnancy at an advanced maternal age may impact subsequent health on the mother as she continues to age, both because of changes from the pregnancy itself and because of increased risk of pregnancy-related complications that can negatively affect her health.


Prepare for your birth with Anja Health

Anja Health is committed to providing the knowledge and resources you need for a healthy pregnancy and healthy baby. Our Stem Cell Safe offers an affordable option for umbilical cord blood, tissue, and placenta banking in the United States. Saving your baby's stem cells could treat or reverse severe conditions in the future.

All you have to do is order a collection kit before your due date, store it at room temperature, take it with you to the hospital when you give birth, and tell your healthcare professional that you have your kit ready for collection. After your baby's birth, the Anja Health team collects the kit and takes care of the rest. 

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