What Is Geriatric Pregnancy? Experts Share Unique Challenges And Risks

With sudden shifts in lifestyle choices, it has become very common for women to conceive in their mid-30s. Though it's a choice, there are several risks and complications associated with late pregnancies. We got in touch with health experts who have debunked myths and challenges associated with it. Read on to know more.
What Is Geriatric Pregnancy? Experts Share Unique Challenges And Risks

What Is Geriatric Pregnancy? Experts Share Unique Challenges And Risks (Image Credits: iStock)

In recent years, a notable shift has emerged with the rise of what is colloquially termed "geriatric pregnancy" — a term used to describe pregnancies in women aged 35 and older. This demographic trend marks a significant departure from historical norms, where women often started their families at younger ages.
Women in this age group often face unique challenges and considerations when embarking on the journey of pregnancy and childbirth. These challenges can range from increased risks of certain medical complications to navigating fertility treatments.
We got in touch with health experts who have given insights about geriatric pregnancy, unique challenges faced by women and the risks associated with it.
Dr Neena Singh Kumar, Senior Director and Head of Unit, Obstetrics And Gynaecology, Max Smart Super Speciality Hospital, Saket shares:
- Geriatric pregnancy term is used for women having a baby of the age 35 or older. The ideal time for pregnancy is between the ages of 20- 30 years. After this period the ageing of the ovum takes place and some chromosomal changes occur in it.
Women are gradually going towards menopause by the age of 45-50 years. Hence it is called geriatric pregnancy. Today doctors use the term advanced age pregnancy instead of geriatric pregnancy.
Dr Neelam Suri, Senior Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi shares unique challenges for women who become pregnant later in life.
Firstly, fertility declines with age, making it more difficult to conceive naturally. Many women over 35 may require fertility treatments, such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), to achieve pregnancy. These treatments can be emotionally, physically, and financially taxing. Additionally, the risk of chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome, increases with maternal age, necessitating more frequent prenatal testing and counselling.
Secondly, older mothers are at a higher risk of developing pregnancy-related complications, such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and placental issues. They may also have pre-existing medical conditions, like hypertension or diabetes, that can complicate pregnancy and require closer monitoring. Furthermore, the risk of miscarriage and preterm delivery is higher in older mothers, underscoring the need for specialized care and support throughout the pregnancy.
Dr Neena Singh Kumar shares that risks of advanced maternal age during pregnancy include:
? Premature birth
? Low birth weight in the baby
? Miscarriage
? Stillbirth
? Chromosomal Abnormalities
? Birth Defects
? Lab Or Complications, such as early labour
? Cesarean delivery
? Preeclampsia, a serious form of high blood pressure
? Gestational Diabetes
? Multiple Pregnancies, Such As Twins Or Triplets
In babies due to chromosomal changes in the ovum, the risk of Down syndrome increases. Below 35 years of age, it is 1 in 900, but above 35 years it is 1 in 100, which is very high.
Some of the risks of advanced maternal age on babies include:
- Chromosomal changes in the ovum increase the risk of Down syndrome. Below 35 years of age, it is 1 in 900, but above 35 years it is 1 in 100, which is very high.
- IUGR (Intrauterine Growth Retardation)
- Neurological Complications
- Increase chances of neural tube defects and spina bifida.
Dr Neelam Suri shares “Firstly, we recommend early and frequent prenatal visits to closely monitor the mother's health and the baby's development. This includes detailed ultrasounds to screen for potential birth defects and chromosomal abnormalities, as well as regular screening for gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and other age-related complications. We may also suggest additional genetic testing, such as chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis, to provide more information about the baby's risk for certain conditions.”
“Secondly, we pay close attention to the mother's overall health and any pre-existing medical conditions that could impact the pregnancy. This may involve coordinating care with other specialists, such as a maternal-fetal medicine specialist or a high-risk obstetrician. We also provide counselling and education on managing risk factors, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and preparing for potential interventions or complications during pregnancy, labour, and delivery. Our goal is to optimize outcomes for both the mother and the baby through vigilant monitoring and personalized care plans tailored to each individual's unique needs and circumstances,” Dr Neelam Suri added.
Dr Neena Singh Kumar shares factors which contribute to delay in the pregnancy of women are:
1. Higher Education of women
2. Late settlement in professional carriers
3. Delayed financial independence
4. lifestyle change, hence delaying marriages.
Dr Neelam Suri shares that there are several lifestyle changes and precautions that women should consider when planning a pregnancy at an older age:
Firstly, it is crucial to adopt a healthy lifestyle well before conception. This includes maintaining a balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, engaging in regular physical activity, achieving a healthy body weight, and avoiding harmful substances like tobacco, alcohol, and recreational drugs. Women should also ensure that any pre-existing medical conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, or autoimmune disorders, are well-controlled and managed in consultation with their healthcare providers.
Secondly, women should consider starting prenatal care and undergoing preconception counselling as early as possible. This allows healthcare professionals to assess their overall health, identify potential risks, and provide guidance on appropriate screening tests, supplements, and lifestyle modifications. It is also recommended to undergo genetic counselling and carrier screening tests to evaluate the risk of passing on genetic disorders or congenital disabilities to the child. By taking these precautions, women can optimize their chances of a healthy pregnancy and minimize potential complications associated with advanced maternal age.
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