Daily wisdom: a mother’s age doesn’t matter

Today's topic: Getting pregnant later in life doesn't affect birth risk

The science:

recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that a mother’s age is not the cause of elevated risks such as preterm labor and below-average birthweight. Instead, researchers attributed these consequences to “individual circumstances in the life of the parents or behaviors that are more common in older adults.”

Expert insight:

In the U.S., a pregnant woman is considered to be AMA (advanced maternal age) at 35, while in the U.K. she is referred to as ‘geriatric.’ “This is antiquated and total B.S.,” says Jacques Moritz, M.D., an OBGYN at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City and a member of the Equinox Health Advisory Board. It used to be that the risk of a woman at age 35 having a baby with Down syndrome (one in 350) was equivalent to the risk of her suffering a miscarriage during amniocentesis (a test that detects chromosomal abnormalities). This is why experts believed 35 and older to be a high risk age, he explains. Now, however, that’s completely outdated: “Thanks to technology such as guided ultrasounds, the risk of miscarriage during an amnio can be as low as one in 1000.”

While the study didn’t define the “individual circumstances” that are more likely to cause birth risks, Moritz agrees that age in and of itself is not the determining factor. “It’s true that age definitely plays a role in fertility (it starts to sharply drop at age 35),” says Moritz, “but past performance is the best indicator. If you’ve had a healthy baby before, you should be good regardless of your age.” What is more, Moritz notes that one of the most important elements for avoiding complications is maintaining a healthy weight, which makes you less likely to have gestational diabetes or preeclampsia (a dangerous condition characterized by high blood pressure).

The bottom line:

Regular exercise and a well-balanced diet are key to supporting a healthy pregnancy regardless of age, says Moritz. If approved by your doctor, try these workouts for each trimester.