It’s never too late

There are many challenges associated with planning a baby at a later stage. Dr Sangeeta Rao weighs the options

health

Getting pregnant after 35 years of age is a challenge for many couples. The older you get, the fewer eggs remain fertile and your fertility rate begins to decline — it falls under a higher risk of being exposed to different medical conditions and chronic diseases such as  diabetes, high blood pressure or depression. Fertility also
declines in men with age due to declining sperm count, motility, and semen volume. Age-related factors can make it more difficult for women to become pregnant.

There are many complications and risks of pregnancy after 35 which arise due to various medical conditions.
Here are the following factors which may weigh heavy on the prospects of motherhood after the age of 35:

Low birth weight, premature birth, miscarriages, and genetic disorders.

Risk of a multiple pregnancies like expecting twins, triplets, and quadruplets.

Fertility problems including having trouble getting pregnant due to lesser eggs in ovulation time.

Pre-existing diabetes which damages different internal organs and causes fertility problems.

Cases of stillbirths when babies die inside the womb after 20 weeks of pregnancy, miscarriage and birth defects like babies being born with down syndrome and chromosomal abnormalities.

Those planning a family must adhere to the following:

Schedule an appointment with your doctor: Your gynaecologist will review your medical history which gives you the opportunity to address any concerns when trying to conceive after the age of 35. 

Follow medications and a healthy lifestyle: A healthy lifestyle needs to be maintained by ensuring that you weigh healthy, avoid drugs, alcohol and smoking and maintain a healthy diet everyday. These measures can help treat any fertility problems and make it easier for a woman to get pregnant naturally after 35. Women should ensure that they remain physically active and insist that their partner is equally committed.

It takes longer to conceive

The average time for a couple over 35 to conceive is around one to two years. Couples must stay positive and not expect results immediately.

Life can be hectic but taking care of the emotional and mental well-being by remaining stress-free through yoga, meditation, and regular exercise, and trying out art therapy for relaxation are good options.

A woman who is physically, mentally and emotionally healthy is more likely to conceive without any problems but alcohol, smoking and  drugs  can negatively affect fertility.

Being overweight or underweight can also affect fertility by interfering with one’s hormonal functions.

Observe the signs of fertility

Recording your basal body temperature and cervical fluid can help you choose the best time to have intercourse while trying to conceive. These fertility signs can also reveal if you are ovulating regularly.

Becoming familiar with your fertility will also help you know the signs and symptoms of pregnancy.

Consider taking an at-home fertility screening test — there are over-the-counter tests that help screen for key elements affecting female and male fertility.

Visit your gynaecologist if you haven’t conceived after six months of intercourse to discuss the possibility of fertility testing.

You may decide to consult a fertility specialist at this time for undergoing medically-diagnosed fertility tests.  

You can try other options like artificial insemination, IVF and variations including ICSI if you’re having trouble getting pregnant. However, none of these methods will guarantee successful conception or pregnancy as success rates vary with age and individuals.

Here are some tips for increasing the chances of having a healthy baby:

Preconception checkups and counselling: When you decide that you are ready to have a baby, it is important to take some prior steps/checkups to conception. 

Get early and regular prenatal care: The first eight weeks of pregnancy are very important for the baby’s development.

Early and regular prenatal care can increase one’s chances of having a safe pregnancy and a healthy baby which includes screenings, regular examinations, pregnancy and childbirth education and counselling and support.

It also helps provide extra protection for women over the age of 35. During prenatal visits, doctor will check the blood pressure, test urine for protein and sugar, and test blood glucose levels.

Consider optional prenatal tests: The doctor will offer special prenatal tests that are particularly applicable for older moms. Take prenatal vitamins containing 400 micrograms of folic acid. 

 

(The author is consultant obstetrician, gynaecologist & laparoscopic surgeon, Dr Sita Bhateja multi-speciality hospital, Bengaluru)

 

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