What does ‘advanced maternal age’ mean in pregnancy?

Mature pregnant woman

My friend Rachel will never forget the words of her doctor when she went in for her initial prenatal visit at age 37. “You’re not old,” he said, “you’re just old to be having a baby.”

Until she conceived, Rachel had only thought it might take a little longer to become pregnant.  She told me “I didn’t realize there were other health concerns I needed to know about.”

More than ever before, women in Canada are having their first baby after age 35.

Rachel’s story is typical, especially in Canada, where the number of first time pregnant women over the age of 35 has grown significantly in the last 20 years.  There are many reasons why someone might delay having their first baby.  The choice might not be theirs, as fertility issues affect about 1 in 8 Canadian families.  Some are having babies later because of work, school, or relationship priorities.  Or sometimes life throws you something unexpected.  Whatever the reason, there are a few questions prospective parents over 35 may be asking:


How long will it take to get pregnant?

We know that fertility decreases with age for everyone, regardless of gender.  If you’re over 35 and want to start planning for a baby, it’s best not to wait too long, especially if you’ve had a previous miscarriage or you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than 6 months.  Speak to your doctor or midwife.  Many people look to fertility treatments although these tend to be less successful as you get older.


Why does it matter when you have your first baby?

Many people who become pregnant at a later age have uncomplicated pregnancies and healthy babies.  However, it’s good to be aware of some conditions that individuals of advanced age may experience:


How do you have a good pregnancy without worrying about all of the above?

Start now by making some healthy changes.  Learn how to stay healthy during pregnancy.

Be sure to relax and enjoy the pregnancy too.  The experience of being a parent begins with pregnancy, whatever your age!

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