At What Age am I Considered a High-Risk Pregnancy?

If someone tells you your pregnancy is high-risk, that means there could be potential health concerns for you or your baby. Several different things can play a role in whether or not your pregnancy is high-risk.

For some women, it’s having a pre-existing condition like diabetes, hypertension, or lupus. For others, a healthy pregnancy becomes high-risk because of genetic disorders, placental problems, fetal abnormalities, or because they’re carrying multiple babies.

One factor that always factors into your pregnancy is your age. But as more women have healthy pregnancies later in life, setting a hard number for when you become high-risk isn’t as straightforward as it would seem.

At his clinics in Cranston and Smithfield, Rhode Island, Dr. A. Michael Coppa works closely with each of the women in his care to evaluate their overall health and personal risks associated with pregnancy to determine what makes them high-risk.

Age and pregnancy

Generally speaking, being an adult woman over 35 designates you as a high-risk pregnancy. To many women’s chagrin, they find themselves referred to as an “older mother” or of “advanced maternal age (AMA).” Other medical terms for first-time mothers in this category include “elderly primigravida” or “elderly multigravida,” if this isn’t your first pregnancy.

While being 35 may flag your pregnancy as high-risk, your body doesn’t have a switch that automatically flips to guarantee that you’ll have problems. More and more women are safely having babies well into their 30s and beyond, and Dr. Coppa cares for many expectant mothers over 35 to help ensure they have the healthiest pregnancies and deliveries possible.

While you can still have a healthy pregnancy after 35, it’s important to understand the unique issues that increase as you age that make it high-risk.

Declining fertility

Even when you’re in the best physical shape of your life, your fertility begins to decrease as you get older. This occurs because you have fewer eggs left and their quality diminishes. Men also experience a decline in fertility with age as their sperm count declines, its motility reduces, and semen volume drops. All of these changes can make it harder for you to conceive both naturally and through artificial insemination.

Increased genetic risks

Conceiving over 35 also increases your chances of certain genetic risks, including chromosomal abnormalities and Down syndrome. When compared to a 20-year-old woman who has a one in 2,000 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome, your risks increase to one in 350 by age 35, one in 100 at 40, and one in 30 at 45. To detect genetic abnormalities early, Dr. Coppa provides chromosomal screening testing and ultrasounds to look for any potential issues in your pregnancy.

More health complications

If you’re in generally good health, eat right, exercise, and maintain a healthy weight, it’s likely that you’ll have a healthy pregnancy. But, you still have higher chances of preeclampsia and placenta previa.

Other health issues include higher rates of emergency cesarean delivery and complications associated with cardiovascular disease, like hemorrhagic stroke and heart attack. It’s also more common for pregnancies in women over 35 to have miscarriages and stillbirths.

No matter your age, Dr. Coppa’s advanced obstetrics and gynecological training can help monitor your pregnancy and watch for problems before they grow serious. To learn more about pregnancy after 35, call A. Michael Coppa, MD, or schedule an appointment online today.


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