Pregnancy In Your 20s
THE GOOD NEWS
If you’re healthy at this age group, you’re more likely to experience an easy pregnancy. For starters, you ovulate (release eggs from your ovaries) more often which means you may fall pregnant quickly. There are also less chances of miscarriage as well as less risk of medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.
The other advantage of the 20s being the best age for pregnancy is that you’re still physically active and less likely to be overweight. Being overweight at any age is a serious pregnancy risk as it’s linked with the risk of infertility (inability to have a baby), and if you do fall pregnant the risk of abnormalities, diabetes and high blood pressure is increased.
THE BAD NEWS
However, younger is not always better. At ages 20 to 24 and as a first-time mother, you have a slightly higher risk of preeclampsia (a dangerous pregnancy condition that causes high blood pressure and protein in the urine). Doctors are unsure why some women get preeclampsia. The condition is a serious one, it can slow down the baby’s growth and lead to early delivery. Bad lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking, not getting prenatal care (regular medical care for pregnant women) and a poor diet can be associated with women in their early 20s. This increases the chance of having a baby with a low birth weight (less than 2.5kg). Low birth weight babies also have a greater chance of health problems and disabilities. Fortunately, you can reduce your risk by cutting out smoking and drinking, eating well, taking a multivitamin and getting good prenatal care.
Pregnancy In Your 30s
THE GOOD NEWS
One of the advantages of pregnancy in the 30s is that you tend to be more financially, emotionally and socially stable, all of which are important for a good pregnancy. The 30s can be divided into early 30s and late 30s (35+). There are similar advantages and results of pregnancy in your 30s as in your 20s. However, at this age you may take longer to conceive as you ovulate less regularly.
THE BAD NEWS
Fertility tends to start slowing down in your early 30s. Although many women give birth to healthy babies at 35+, complications for both baby and mother increase. At this age, fertility begins to decrease even faster, and more women in this age group take longer to conceive and suffer miscarriages. If you’re 35+ and struggle to conceive after trying for six months, it’s best to consult your doctor. Many fertility problems can be treated.
Another concern in your 30s is a higher risk of abnormalities (like Down Syndrome and Turner Syndrome). The risk of Down Syndrome is three to four times higher after age 35. Babies tend to be bigger too (often influenced by the mother’s weight), and may have birth complications that call for a Caesarean section (C-section). Early prenatal care and good medical treatment can fix most health issues at this age.
Pregnancy In Your 40s
THE NOT-SO-GOOD NEWS
Although you may still have a healthy baby, pregnancy in your 40s can come with challenges. Similar to the late 30s, you may take longer or even struggle to fall pregnant. After the age of 40, all the problems mentioned in the 35+ age group, such as pregnancyrelated diabetes, increase. Research shows that women over 35 also have an increased chance of having twins, which may further complicate pregnancy, making it even more risky.
You may also have more problems during delivery, such as failure to progress (cervix not dilating or baby not descending) and foetal distress (baby not coping well during birth), which may help explain why first-time moms older than 40 have the highest risk of C-section (43%, according to a recent Harvard Medical School study). Special medical care and treatment is advised for a healthy pregnancy.
When Not To Fall Pregnant?
IN YOUR TEENS: Although physically the body is ready to carry a baby after the start of periods, teenage pregnancy is not a good idea. Pregnancy can have negative effects on the growing teenage body and teens tend to experience many complications, ranging from increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) caused by pregnancy, and an increased rate of C-sections. There is also the lack of emotional readiness that may affect the teen mom and baby negatively.
TIP: It’s a good idea to plan your pregnancy. A full physical check-up is recommended in order to make sure you do not have anaemia, high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease. Also, you should know your HIV status, as there is a risk of infecting the baby. HIV is also the leading cause of maternal deaths in SA. If you are HIV+, you may need to take antiretroviral treatment in the course of your pregnancy.
Pregnancy through the ages
By Sbu Mpungose
Additional sources: How Stuff Works (www.howstuffworks.com), Discovery Fit & Health (health.discovery.com).
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