Educational or career pursuits and other personal decisions have increased the average age of women having babies.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the proportion of first births to women younger than 20 declined 42 percent, while rising 28 percent among women ages 30 to 34 and 23 percent among women 35 and older.
Berry Campbell, M.D., Palmetto Health-USC OB/GYN, has seen a rise in his patients 35 years old or older who are having children. When he began practicing in 1985, one in 10 pregnant women were 35 years old or older. Now, the number has grown to around one-third of his expectant patients.
“This is a group of patients that we are dealing with more and more,” said Campbell. “I would say it has increased dramatically over the past two decades.” Campbell notes that many older couples also are starting second families later in life due to second marriages or other reasons.
Along with an aging population of expectant mothers comes increased challenges, including a greater likelihood a child will experience some chromosome abnormalities like Down syndrome. But while such factors are uncontrollable, Campbell said there are significantly more steps older women can take to reduce the chance of complications or abnormalities during pregnancy.
Tips for women over 35 who are considering having children include:
- Optimize your health
- Follow a proper diet
- Exercise regularly
- Manage weight gain
- Consult an OB/GYN beforehand, especially women with medical conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure
- Seek effective prenatal care
Campbell added, “Proactive steps can prevent a lot of problems down the line, and that is very gratifying to see.”
For more information about Palmetto Health-USC OB/GYN, visit our website at phuscmg.org/obgyn or call 803-296-2273.