What does advanced maternal age mean? Am I high risk?

Advanced maternal age (AMA) is defined as a person 35 years or older. If you are 34 years old but your birthday is before your due date, you will be considered AMA for that pregnancy. Research suggests those who are AMA are at an increased risk for certain complications.

Benefits

While we often hear of the risks of pregnancy as we get older, it is important to note that there are benefits too. Studies show that children of older parents tend to be healthier and do better in school. With the added bonus of increased financial stability and emotional maturity, there are substantial upsides to being AMA. 

There is rarely a perfect time to get pregnant. Let’s discuss some of the data on the risks of pregnancy as we get older, and what we can do to mitigate those risks.

Age related complications

If you are 35 years of age or older, statistically, you are at an increased risk of the following complications related to pregnancy, fetal development and birth:

Pregnancy

  • Miscarriage
    • Evidence suggests the average rate of miscarriage across all ages during the first trimester is between 10-31%
    • The miscarriage rate for ages 35-44 years is up to 40% and for > 45 years is between 60-65% 
    • AMA may also increase risks of ectopic pregnancy, placenta previa, gestational diabetes and pregnancy-related blood pressure issues such as preeclampsia.

Fetal Development

  • Chances of chromosomal abnormalities in an egg increases with age. Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal anomaly associated with age.
  • AMA may also increase risks of congenital anomalies

Birth

  • As maternal age increases, evidence suggests an increased risk of stillbirth. Due to this risk, Ob providers might recommend induction before your due date or additional monitoring of your pregnancy.

Supporting a healthy pregnancy

Despite the challenges, most people over the age of 35 have healthy pregnancies and babies. Here are some tips for a healthy pregnancy:

-Do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (cardio) per week decreases risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, cesarean birth, and back pain.

-Practice mindfulness meditation, this decreases stress hormones, improves anxiety and depression, and has been linked to better immune function.

-get adequate sleep, this provides benefits across the board for both mind and body

-eat a diet rich in whole foods, especially brightly colored vegetables. 

Seeing a trusted Ob provider, receiving good prenatal care and advancements in technology all play a valuable role in supporting a pregnancy at any age. Work with your Ob provider to review your options for prenatal screenings and create a plan that supports the health of your pregnancy.