Health

The joys and risks of becoming an older mum

As new stats reveal more and more of us are having babies later in life, Keeley Bolger reveals the health risks we should all be aware of

Plenty of 'older mums' have perfectly healthy pregnancies and babies
Keeley Bolge

SHE may be approaching 50, but that hasn't stopped Janet Jackson from becoming pregnant, and she's not the only celebrity to have demonstrated that it is indeed possible to have children a little later in life.

There's also Cherie Blair, and Halle Berry: both became mothers after 40.

But it's not just celebs who are at it. In fact, it seems more and more of us are starting our families later than ever, with the average age of a first-time mum now 30.2 in Britain and Northern Ireland, according to the Office Of National Statistics.

In addition, a recent survey on behalf of the Private Pregnancy UK Show revealed that 44 is the age most women consider the 'cut off' point for becoming a mum, with some survey respondents claiming it's 'unfair' on the child to have old parents, or citing health complications, or a lower chance of seeing the child grow up, as the reason.

That said, it's important to note that there are plenty of 'older mums' who go on to have healthy pregnancies and babies – and any concerns and risks will be addressed by your GP.

But what should you know if you're planning on having a baby from your mid-30s upwards?

FERTILITY

It's believed that, generally speaking, women's fertility declines after 35, while men's fertility decreases more gradually, from around 40. Many men are still fertile in their 50s and beyond.

MISCARRIAGE

Miscarriages are surprisingly common, with one in five pregnancies ending this way. There are many reasons why women miscarry, but it is known that women aged 35 and over are more likely to experience it. But being common doesn't make miscarriages any less heartbreaking, and support is out there if needed (visit www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk).

GIVING BIRTH

Older mums are at greater risk of experiencing complications during the delivery. This includes Caesarean section, prolonged labour and stillbirth.

PRE-ECLAMPSIA

Becoming pregnant later in life makes women more likely to suffer from a potentially very serious condition called pre-eclampsia, which can lead to high blood pressure and protein in the urine and is often detected in the second half of the pregnancy.

TWINS AND TRIPLETS

Older mums are more likely to have twins or triplets, which may carry a higher risk of complications.

DOWN'S SYNDROME

There is an increased chance of having a baby with Down's syndrome, or other congenital abnormalities, for older mothers.

SCREENINGS

If you're planning a pregnancy, bear in mind that while it's good to be aware of the above risks, they are just that - risks, not certainties - and not an inevitability for every older mother.

Going to screenings to check for high blood pressure and other medical conditions, and keeping in good health before and during your pregnancy by maintaining a healthy weight, being reasonably physically active, not smoking, limiting alcohol and having screenings to test for STIs will all help.

Health

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