After having IVF treatment an Australian woman gave birth this week at age 62. Very few women are able to conceive a baby later in life without the help of IVF, but these women also go through menopause later and have lower risks for heart disease, osteoporosis and dementia. But despite those benefits, becoming pregnant later in life carries some real risk.
Women age 30 and older are twice as likely as their younger counterparts to suffer from life-threatening high blood pressure known as preeclampsia during their pregnancy and they also double their risk for developing gestational diabetes. More than 50% of women over the age of 40 will need to have their baby delivered via caesarean section.
Another frightening statistic on age and pregnancy: increasing maternal age also increases the chance that the mother will die during the pregnancy or in childbirth. Complications associated with pregnancy such as bleeding and blood clots put moms in the 40-50-year-old age range at 3-6 times more risk for death during the six weeks following the birth of their baby.
Women who give birth after age 40 have a dramatically increased chance of suffering a stillbirth, and the chance of a miscarriage for these women is actually greater than the chance for a live birth.
The babies born to these older women face their own risks. Many are born too soon – before 36 weeks – or have a low birth weight. Both of those conditions can cause problems with lung development, or obesity and diabetes when they reach adulthood.
Pregnancy at any age puts extra strain on the heart and blood vessels. New emerging evidence suggests that older mothers are more likely to suffer a stroke later in life.
Many fertility clinics have chosen to cut off IVF treatments at age 50. Scientific evidence shows that pregnancy risks are lowest for women in their 20’s because they are less likely to have health risks like obesity and diabetes that complicate a pregnancy.
The quality of a woman’s eggs declines as she ages, and poor egg quality is directly associated with genetic errors that can result in miscarriage and birth defects.
In Australia, the number of women having babies at age 30 or older has doubled in the last twenty-five years to almost 43%. Around 1000 births there annually occur in women aged 45 or older. That rate has increased because of social and financial pressures and because of new IVF technologies including egg donation.
These advances in IVF treatments have made it possible for women to conceive much later in life, but that decision can be dangerous…for both the mother and the child.