Study shows that older mother pregnancy may have benefits

There's always a ray of light amid the grey clouds.

Women who have their first baby when they are over 35 years old are often anxious as they are "at risk" for pregnancy complications. What's worse is that health professionals seem to be worsening their anxiety! It's no surprise since previous studies have found that an older mother pregnancy tends to end in issues such as medical abortions and congenital fetal anomalies. 

However, scientists have found some good news! Recent scientific research says that older mother pregnancy has some benefits. Specifically, mums who give birth after the age of 35 have better cognitive functions than those who gave birth at a younger age. 

Benefits of an Older Mother Pregnancy 

The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, found that mums who had  a baby later in life had better verbal memory.

Mothers whose first period before 13 years of age also had stronger global cognition. In contrast, women who gave birth to their first child between the ages of 15 and 24 were shown to have worse health and cognitive functioning in their 40s.

older mother pregnancies Scientists have recently found out that mothers who give birth at a later age have better memory than their younger peers.

 
Why is this so? Scientists think that a lengthier reproductive period and using oral contraceptives also had a positive impact to brainpower improvement later in life.
 
However, they think that hormone spikes during pregnancy are the main factor positively influencing the brain's functioning. The idea is that pregnancy in later life allows these positive changes to last longer.
 
Dr Roksana Karim, the lead author of the study, comments that "The discovery of a positive effect of later age pregnancy on late-life cognition is novel and substantial." 

Perhaps, despite all the risks and anxiety, getting pregnant over 35 isn't so bad after all. Here are some tips to help you prepare, mums-to-be!

Preparing for an Older Mother Pregnancy

Dr Kelly Loi, a Fertility Specialist from Mount Elizabeth Hospital Singapore has some advice for mothers who are planning for pregnancy at 40 years old. She recommends that mums:

  • Take prenatal and folic acid supplements to prevent birth defects.
  • Consult a fertility specialist as soon as possible to assess your gynaecological health and fertility status. Husbands, too, should assess their fertility status. A fertility specialist can advise if fertility treatment is necessary and additional methods to optimise pregnancy. 
  • Regularly conduct prenatal visits once pregnant. Doing so will allow parents to monitor the well-being of the baby and mum alike. 
  • Consult a doctor to see if any prenatal diagnostic tests (such as nuchal translucency ultrasound and prenatal blood testing) are needed. Note that some diagnostics tests, such as chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis, may carry a slight risk of miscarriage. 

older mother pregnancy Always consult your doctor if you have any doubts. | Image source: stock photo

Dr Ann Tan, another fertility specialist from Mount Elizabeth Hospital, quotes that "time is (of) the essense once a woman crosses 40." She advises mums planning for pregnancy to: 

  • Remain in good health (have a balanced diet, exercise regularly, sleep adequate hours) to minimise the risks of giving birth over 40. 
  • Take supplements to maximise overall sperm, egg and embryo health. 
  • Get assisted reproduction if mums have ovarian reserves or significant male factors.

How Can Mums Minimise the Risks of Late Pregnancies?

Expert's Opinions

In addition to the tips above, Dr Tan Eng Loy, a consultant at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Singapore General Hospital, also advises the following:

  • Consult a doctor when trying to conceive. This is to check if pre-existing conditions like diabetes, hypertension and heart conditions are stable, as they can cause issues. The medical professional who you visit will ideally optimise your current medication dosage. That way, it won't affect conception or harm the unborn baby.
  • Ask for medical advice for induced labour very near the delivery date to avoid risking stillbirth.   

General Tips

If the pregnancy is succesful, mums can take these initiatives to make sure that their baby is healthy and is delivered safely:

  • Calling or seeing your doctor if you think there are any issues with your pregnancy.
  • Avoiding stress — do not overwork yourself!
  • Maintaining a healthy diet and pregnancy weight
  • Living cleanly. Avoid food or substances that may affect your pregnancy. 
  • Savour the moments! Don't be overly concerned because anxiety can exhaust you and affect your well-being.

older mother pregnancy Remember: DON'T stress or worry! Everything's going to be fine. | Image source: stock photo

Remember, mums, a woman's body can overcome the difficulties of pregnancy after 35 so long as it's in good shape. Science hasn't confirmed an age limit for pregnancy, yet. Thus, any healthy, non-menopausal women should still be able to deliver their bundle of joy!

 

References: Popsugar, Journal of American Geriatric Society, Health Care for Women International, Europe PMC

ALSO READ: More mums in Singapore giving birth at 40!

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