Having a Pregnancy in Your 30s

How to Have a Healthy Pregnancy and Baby in Your 30s

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It is clear from new research that women in their 30s are giving birth at a higher rate than women in their 20s. The number of women giving birth in their 30s increased while women in their 20s saw fewer births in their age group.

The newest Centers for Disease Control information shows that the birth rate for women in the 30 to 34 age group increased from 101.5/1000 in 2015 to 102.6/1000 last year.

Older women in their 30s, those in the 35 to 39 age group saw an increase in their birth rate as well, but at a slower pace. Birth rates for the 25 to 29 age bracket fell from 104.3/1000 in 2015 to 101.9/1000 in 2016. This decrease takes the 25 to 29 year olds out of the top birth rate position that they have held for over 30 years. These new numbers show that women in their 30s (and beyond) are having more babies than before, while their younger counterparts are experiencing a birth rate slow-down.

Getting Pregnant in Your 30s

There is a slight decline in a woman’s fertility at the age of 32, but this decline increases more steeply after the age of 37. Women are most fertile in their 20s, but the current trends we saw above indicate more women are waiting until their 30s to have babies. They are focusing on finishing their education and establishing a career before turning to the thought of having a baby.

The longer they wait, the more challenging it may be to get pregnant. Understanding the likelihood of getting pregnant in your 30s is important. Also important is the age of your partner, especially if you are older than 35. A man’s fertility is affected by age too.

About one-third of women over 35 will seek the help of a fertility specialist, and that number increases with age.

 Fertility treatments may mean a lot of things to a lot of people. The earlier you seek help, you may decrease the intensity of the help you need to conceive. This could be anything from simply monitoring ovulation, to taking an oral medication, all the way to in vitro fertilization (IVF).

If you are over the age of 35, and you haven't gotten pregnant after 6 months of well-timed intercourse without using birth control, the recommend from the major fertility associations are that you seek the help of an obstetrician or fertility specialist (reproductive endocrinologist).

The quality of your eggs may be something that concerns you. While it is true that the older you get, the fewer eggs you have and the greater the potential for poorer quality can be, this is not an automatic issue. Your doctor or midwife can order tests if they are concerned about egg quality. This is only one aspect of fertility testing.

Your chances of getting pregnant without fertility help in your 30s is about 75 percent in any one cycle.

Chances of Having Twins

The chances of having twins in general increases as you age. Because of hormonal fluctuations as you age, the chances of having twins goes up. This isn't really something that becomes a significant increase until after 35.

Though this increase could also be caused by an increase in the use of fertility treatments.

Staying Pregnant

Every pregnancy carries the risk of miscarriage, and that risk does go up with age. Many miscarriages can be a result of chromosomal abnormalities, and the chance of a baby having these abnormalities goes up with the age of the mother, particularly after the age of 35. Doing what you can to stay healthy, fit, and free of any chronic illnesses can also help you to avoid pregnancy loss in your 30s.

You are more likely to have a miscarriage if you already have a chronic condition, which can complicate your pregnancy and increase the chance of miscarriage.

 Diabeteshigh blood pressure, or thyroid disease all can impact your pregnancy, so staying healthy before getting pregnant is helpful to reducing this risk. Identifying or managing any chronic conditions before you are pregnant can minimize the risk of miscarriage. Meeting with your healthcare provider for a preconception work-up prior to trying to conceive is an important step.

Body Changes

There is no doubt that being pregnant changes your body. The older you are, the more challenging the physical changes of pregnancy may be on your body. Many women in their 30s are used to being physically active and have a well-established fitness routine. Being physically fit and continuing to stay active during your pregnancy can help you to feel strong and minimize pregnancy-related physical symptoms. If you are already exercising, there is usually no reason to stop just because you are pregnant. A healthy program of exercise often can keep issues that frequently cause aches and pains at bay.

Check with your doctor or midwife at your first prenatal to discuss your physical activity and determine if you need to make any changes to what you are currently doing. If you have not been exercising, starting a gentle program of swimming, yoga, or walking under medical guidance can provide you a lot of benefits throughout your pregnancy, including helping to reduce stress and improving your physical condition. Some studies even show that women who stay active in pregnancy have easier and shorter labors.

Emotional Changes

Ask anyone who has spent any time around a pregnant woman, and they will tell you that pregnancy alters your emotions via all the hormonal changes. This is true regardless of the age you are when you get pregnant.

Having finished your higher education and secured a satisfying career can help you to feel more established and satisfied with your life when you do conceive. You have the maturity and insight to be able to adjust to major life changes more easily than a younger person just starting out. This skill will go a long way to helping you to keep your stress level under control and be able manage the changes that are you are experiencing throughout this pregnancy.

You may have many friends in their 30s who are also having babies, and find yourself with a natural cohort of people to share the experience with. If not, you can reach out to prenatal groups and social events in your community to connect with others who are going through this experience at the same time as you.

Financial Stability

While you may still be making those last student loan payments, chances are your life has settled down and you are well-employed in a career that you enjoy. You are not a rookie in the employment world and you have proven your value as an employee. This makes it easier to take a break from work in the weeks and months after you have a baby, while still having a satisfying position to return to. You continue to be very employable with relevant skills that allow you to go back to work with confidence, or  to know that you can take a year or two off if you choose without hurting your reputation. There are some advantages to having children in your 30s, and being well established in your career is one of them.

Health Risks

Pregnancy in your 30s has the potential to be more complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Complications from a pregnancy at any age can occur, and in your late 30s there might be an increased risk of:

Discussing your situation with your healthcare provider and keeping up with consistent prenatal care can help you to remain healthy and quickly identify any potential problems if they should pop up, so your care plan can be adjusted. The sooner you know about a possible complication, the more options you may have for treatment possibilities. Just because there is an increased risk of having a complication does not mean that you will absolutely have one. Most pregnancies for women in their 30s proceed without any difficulties.

Genetic Issues

Genetic tests are increasingly more common for pregnant women of all ages. The number of screening tests that are now available has changed how we use genetic testing. In your 30s, depending on if you are 35 or older, genetic screening and testing may require thoughtful consideration and discussion with your doctor or midwife. According to the National Down Syndrome Society, a woman at age 30 has a one in 940 risk of having a baby with Down syndrome.  By age 35, the risk goes up to one in 353. As you leave your 30s, the risk approaches one in 85.

Genetic screenings may be offered during your prenatal care appointments especially if you are 35 or older, or what is identified as advanced maternal age. The test results are given in a way that would tell you about the likelihood of your baby being born with a genetic problem in comparison to your age. At 35, your screening might say that your blood tests indicate your risk of having a child with Down syndrome is one in 500 for this pregnancy. This would be considered a negative screening because your actual risk was better than your statistical risk (one in 353 for a woman at 35).

If your test had said that this pregnancy had a one in 147 chance of resulting in a baby with Down syndrome, this is considered a positive test. This means that your risk of giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome is higher than your statistical risk. Genetic screening does not say with certainty that your baby has a genetic problem, it merely calculates the risks compared to your age group.

Genetic screening is great for some families because it does not pose risks to the mother or baby from the procedure. It can help you decide if genetic testing is more appropriate for your family. Genetic testing provides you with an accurate picture of your baby's genetics and a diagnosis. The trade-off is that there is a potential risk to your baby from the amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS).

Labor and Birth

With getting pregnant and staying pregnant out of the way, it's time to think about having the baby. The news is similar—labor has a higher risk of being more complicated and resulting in more complications for you. One good bit of news is that if this is not your first baby, the risk of preterm labor and birth is less than a mother having her first baby over 40.

Chronic health conditions which may appear in your 30s, are often the culprit of turning a normal pregnancy into a more high risk situation. 

Pregnancy related complications make it more likely that you will need assistance in labor, most notably, an induction of labor. This alone can increase your risk of a cesarean birth in some cases. How likely you are to have a cesarean birth is an intricate dance between your health and history, your choice of practitioner, the place of birth, and a bit of luck.

Baby’s Health After Pregnancy

In your early 30s, there are generally no increased risks for the baby over an average population. That number does go up slightly in your late 30s, again, mostly related to genetic factors and chronic disease. You should address specific concerns about your pregnancy to your doctor or midwife.

A Word From Verywell

While there may be some challenges for getting pregnant and having a baby in your 30s, especially after 35, it is clear that the number of women who are having babies in their 30s is increasing. Starting off as healthy as you can be and receiving proper prenatal care can increase the likelihood of having a healthy pregnancy and baby. You will not be alone, as many of your peers this age group will be on the same journey. Enjoy this opportunity to appreciate being pregnant and birthing during a wonderful time period in your life.

Sources:

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Having a baby after age thirty-five. FAQ060. 2015.

Bayrampour H, Heaman M, Duncan KA, Tough S. Advanced maternal age and risk perception: a qualitative study. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2012 Sep 19;12:100. doi: 10.1186/1471-2393-12-100.

Lisonkova, S., Potts, J., Muraca, G. M., Razaz, N., Sabr, Y., Chan, W.-S., & Kramer, M. S. (2017). Maternal age and severe maternal morbidity: A population-based retrospective cohort study. PLoS Medicine, 14(5), e1002307. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002307

NDSS. Undated. Incidences and maternal age. National Down Syndrome Society.

Rossen LM, Osterman MJK, Hamilton BE, Martin JA. Quarterly provisional estimates for selected birth indicators, 2015-Quarter 4, 2016. National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics System, Vital Statistics Rapid Release Program. 2017.

NDSS. Undated. Incidences and maternal age. National Down Syndrome Society.

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