A mommy after 35
Most healthy women from age 35 into their 40s have healthy pregnancies. Most women over 35 are in good health. Good prenatal care and healthy habits can help you reduce certain risks. If problems do arise for women over 35, they can usually be successfully treated.
Women over age 35 have an increased risk of:
No matter what your age, see your health care provider before trying to get pregnant if you:
- Have a chronic medical condition, such as diabetes, a seizure disorder or high blood pressure
- Are on long-term medication. If not under control, some medical conditions can cause risks for you and your baby.
- If you are older than 35 and don't get pregnant after trying for six months, see your health care provider. Older women may find it harder to get pregnant than younger women because fertility declines with age. In many cases, infertility can be treated.
Prenatal care is especially important for women over 35 because:
- They're more likely to get high blood pressure and diabetes for the first time during pregnancy.
- They may choose to have testing for Down syndrome and other problems.
To help reduce risks during pregnancy:
- Eat healthy foods.
- Gain a healthy amount of weight.
- Exercise, with your health care provider's guidance.
- Don't drink alcohol, smoke or take illegal drugs.
- Don't take any medications or herbal supplements without first checking with your health care provider.
Ask your provider about prenatal screening tests for the baby. For instance, maternal blood screening may be recommended for pregnant women 35 or older.
Test results are usually available within a week or two. Most women who have prenatal screening tests learn that the baby is healthy and feel reassured by the results.
For more information
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC Show Your Love Campaign
Last reviewed March 2008
Most common questions
Can dad's exposure to chemicals harm his future kids?
Dad's exposure to harmful chemicals and substances before conception or during his partner's pregnancy can affect his children. Harmful exposures can include drugs (prescription, over-the-counter and illegal drugs), alcohol, cigarettes, cigarette smoke, chemotherapy and radiation. They also include exposure to lead, mercury and pesticides.
Unlike mom's exposures, dad's exposures do not appear to cause birth defects. They can, however, damage a man's sperm quality, causing fertility problems and miscarriage. Some exposures may cause genetic changes in sperm that may increase the risk of childhood cancer. Cancer treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, can seriously alter sperm, at least for a few months post treatment. Some men choose to bank their sperm to preserve its integrity before they receive treatment. If you have a question about a specific exposure, contact the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists at www.otispregnancy.org.
I've been diagnosed with PCOS. Can I get pregnant?
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a medical condition that can affect a woman's menstrual cycle, hormones, heart, blood vessels, appearance (especially excessive hair growth) and the ability to have children. Although women do make small levels of androgens, also called male hormones, women with PCOS typically have high levels of androgens. This creates a hormonal disorder that affects ovulation and fertility. PCOS can cause many infertility cases. However, with the right treatment, many women have been able to get pregnant.
Women with PCOS often have trouble keeping a healthy weight. Having a healthy weight and increasing physical activity will help maintain ovulation and fertility. It'll also help prevent other complications like diabetes and heart disease. Your health care provider might consider the following treatments to help you get pregnant.
- Medications to help improve insulin resistance and ovulation
- Medication to induce ovulation
My menstrual period is irregular. Can I get pregnant?
Every woman's menstrual cycle is different. Some women have their cycle like clockwork. Others have trouble knowing when it's going to happen. If you have only slight variations from month to month, but you have your menstrual period at least once every 25 to 35 days, this could be normal. However, if your cycle is absent for more than 2 months, you bleed too little or too much and you can't predict when it's going to happen, talk to your health provider. Having an irregular menstrual cycle may mean that ovulation isn't happening or it's happening only a few times a year. This will affect your ability to get pregnant. Your health provider will probably check your thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands. After a checkup your health provider will discuss your treatment options.