Age and Pregnancy
If you're 17 years old or younger or 35 years old or older, your pregnancy could generally be considered "high-risk." Women tend to have a window of time when it's easier on their body to grow a baby and give birth. While it's possible to have a perfectly healthy pregnancy outside this window of time, teenage pregnancy and advanced maternal age pregnancy tend to have more complications.
Advanced Maternal Age Pregnancy
If you're 35 years old or older and pregnant, you're considered to be of advanced maternal age, or AMA. This can put your pregnancy in the high-risk category for a number of reasons, including an increased risk of complications for you and your baby. The chance that these complications can occur with future pregnancies only increases with the age.
Conditions related to advanced maternal age are usually caused by an abnormal number of chromosomes, or aneuploidy. This causes conditions such as Down syndrome, trisomy 18 and trisomy 13.
AMA can also influence the likelihood of premature delivery. Premature babies are born before their organs have finished growing and can experience a higher chance of lung, intestinal and development issues like:
- Pulmonary hypoplasia
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia
- Retinopathy of prematurity
- Necrotizing enterocolitis
- Infections (group B strep and E. coli)
- Failure to thrive
- Apnea and bradycardia
- Central nervous system complications of bleeding or poor perfusion
Advanced maternal age also increases the mother’s risk of complications, such as:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Gestational diabetes
- Placenta previa and placenta accrete
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Liver disorders
- End-organ damage
Treatment of Advanced Maternal Age Pregnancy Complications
It's important that you be monitored at every stage of your pregnancy if you're over 35, so that your care providers can help you prevent and treat complications that can cause premature delivery or the need for a Cesarean (C-section) delivery.
A specific plan will be tailored to you for prenatal care and delivery. This plan may include close monitoring your weight, blood pressure and glucose levels. You may also be given special diet and exercise requirements to stay healthy during your pregnancy. And specific disorders may require therapies depending on the disease, along with continued evaluation of your baby.
If you have known medical disorders, such as diabetes, hypertension or defined genetic disorders, you may benefit from speaking with your obstetrician or one of our high-risk specialists before even getting pregnant for preconception counseling. Planning before conception can help ensure you and your baby have head-start to a happy, healthy pregnancy.
The biggest risk factor for a teen mom is delaying prenatal care or, worse, not getting care at all (about 7% of teens moms don't). Teenage bodies are still growing and developing themselves, so young women should be cared for and monitored closely during pregnancy. Nutritional counseling including healthy weight gain, prenatal vitamins and folic acid intake tend to be a focus.
Expert Care for Mom and Baby
SSM Health's high-risk maternity program offers several levels of support depending on your needs and wishes. Our maternal-fetal medicine specialists are available for consultations and to provide coordinated care with your primary obstetrician. Should the need arise, many of our hospitals have dedicated rooms for moms and babies that require close monitoring and attention where specialists can detect and help treat unique fetal conditions and help coordinate care for you and your baby. Talk to your OB/GYN about when and where you should plan to deliver your baby to ensure you both get the best possible care.