Women are increasingly opting for planned pregnancies after 35 years of age. While medical science has advanced, making such pregnancies safer for mother and baby than they were even 10 years ago, doctors still classify such pregnancies as high risk. Women who postpone childbearing do face some special risks, including infertility and miscarriage, premature delivery and stillbirth, gestational diabetes, bleeding complications, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, C-section, chromosomal abnormalities in babies, growth retardation in babies, and delivering multiples.
“To begin with, we advise couple to come in for a pre-conception check-up three months before, so that we can rule out infections in the parents and make sure the mother is healthy. There are several risks of having a baby after 35, no matter how healthy the mother is. For instance, in the first trimester, a woman may suffer from hyperemesis gravidarum, a complication of pregnancy that results in excessive vomiting. Later into the pregnancy, there may be a problem with the weight of the water bag, meaning less amniotic fluid. In terms of delivery, there are greater risks for operative vaginal deliver (delivery by forceps). Women may gain either too much or too little weight, affecting their own as well as fetal health,” says Dr Vinieta Diwakar, consultant, obstetrics and gynecology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Ghaziabad.
“Women are advised to take charge of their own health, at this time, to ensure a smooth pregnancy and delivery, for themselves and the baby. The key to this is balance—mental, emotional and physical. You can’t control your fertility but you can control your diet, exercise and stress levels. So it’s about managing the things that you can to help boost what you can’t,” says Dr Diwakar.
Sometimes, when women have not planned their baby, they may find it difficult to accept the pregnancy. “If woman decides to go ahead with it, we counsel her and suggest the best possible healthcare, in terms of supplements, tests and lifestyle advice. Check-ups are more frequent than a regular pregnancy, so women can confront their fears and clear doubts at every stage. However, the most important aspect is to stay positive and optimistic during the period, to ensure that the fetus has a good environment to grow in. Emotional or mental stress during a pregnancy can result in complications,” says Dr Diwakar.
Studies have shown that the mother’s mental health can determine her care of herself and of the baby even after delivery. Depression and anxiety in the pre- and ante-natal stage is common but not spoken about enough. “In our society, where we value family above all else, it is upto us, as a society, to help a mother-to-be enjoy this phase of her life,” says Dr Diwakar.