Are Older Mother’s Increasing Their Children’s Risk of Birth Injuries?

Pregnant WomanSociety has changed a lot in recent decades. There has been a focus change for women, from maintaining a household and caring for children to pursuing powerful careers and seeking opportunities in advanced education. As a result, there has been a growing trend for women to put off starting families and having children. According to some medical experts, the increased average age of the American mother has put newborns and developing fetuses at risk.

After age 40, the possibility of conception drops to less than 5%. At the same time, it increases the risk of abnormalities and of complications during delivery by double digits.

Older mothers may be at an increased risk for many complications, including high blood pressure, gestational diabetes, difficult labor, and genetic abnormalities. However, according to Stanford University, some studies show that while there is an increased likelihood of complications in these women, their babies may be no more likely to have problems than the children of younger mothers are. This only applies when women receive quality prenatal care and deliver a baby in a healthcare facility well equipped to care for high-risk pregnancies and neonates.

Increased Risk of Chromosomal Abnormalities

A mother’s risk of having a child with a chromosomal abnormality, such as Down syndrome, increases as she ages. For example, the chance of having a child with Down syndrome is around 1 in 1,250 at age 25. By age 40, that chance is around 1 in 100.

Increased Risk of Cerebral Palsy

Mothers over the age of 30 are more likely to have a child with cerebral palsy, as well. To understand why, it’s essential to have a basic understanding of how the condition occurs and its root causes.

Cerebral palsy is a medical condition that can greatly affect a child’s quality of life. Though several kinds of cerebral palsy exist, they all may occur due to pregnancy complications and problems that present during delivery. Premature deliveries and complications such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure increase the likelihood of delivering a child with cerebral palsy; these are also more common in older women.

In many instances, cerebral palsy results from oxygen deprivation during delivery. This may occur due to umbilical cord abnormalities, fetal distress during delivery, issues affecting the placenta, and more. Any oxygen deprivation can lead to a brain injury that affects muscle movement and speech.

Skewed statistics are a possibility here, as they only account for live births. In other studies, women of advanced maternal age have demonstrably shown that older women are at an increased risk of miscarriage.

Medical professionals consider age 35 to be advanced maternal age, which comes with increased risks for both mother and baby. Thankfully, there are things that mothers can do to protect their own health, as well as that of their unborn child:

  • Talk to a practitioner about your individual health needs
  • Decide if you want a cell-free DNA screening to test for common genetic abnormalities during pregnancy
  • Meet with a practitioner of maternal-fetal medicine
  • Keep all prenatal appointments and follow the schedule and testing recommended by your practitioner
  • Plan on having your baby in a hospital that's well equipped to handle any complications from labor and delivery that might arise (i.e., the need for an emergency cesarean section or a neonatal intensive care unit)

There’s no magic solution to preventing pregnancy complications, but a mother can be aware of the risks of her individual pregnancy and take care of herself to help prevent the development of further complications that may affect her developing child. By attempting to establish a healthy pregnancy, mothers can effectively reduce their risk of medical conditions that could lead to an eventual diagnosis of cerebral palsy.