Having a Healthy Pregnancy in Your 30s

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New research is showing that women in their 30s and beyond are having more babies than before, while their younger counterparts are experiencing a birth rate slow-down. This trend takes the 25- to 29-year-olds out of the top birth rate for the first time in over 30 years.

If you're over 30 and considering have a baby, here's what you need to know when it comes to getting pregnant and staying healthy during pregnancy and beyond.

Why Women Are Waiting

According to the provisional birthrate report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), while there have been steady increases for women in the 30 to 34 and 35 to 39 age groups, birthrates have declined by an average of 4% per year since 2007 for women in the 20 to 24 and 25 to 29 age brackets.??

Although the current trends indicate more women are waiting until their 30s to have babies, the reasons are unclear. Some possible explanations include:

  • Declines and delays of marriage
  • Finishing schooling and establishing a career before turning to thoughts of having a baby
  • Greater access to safe and effective contraceptive
  • Having fewer children
  • Improved fertility technologies
  • More screen time, less sex

Coping With Infertility

The longer you wait to try to have a baby, the more challenging it may be to get pregnant. Women are most fertile in their 20s, with a slight decline in fertility at the age of 32. The decline increases more steeply after the age of 37.??

If you are over the age of 35 and have not been able to get pregnant after six?months of well-timed intercourse without using contraception, fertility experts recommend seeking the help of an obstetrician or fertility specialist (reproductive endocrinologist).??

About one-third of women over 35 will?seek the help of a fertility specialist, and that number increases with age.??

While age-related decreases in fertility can be caused by fewer eggs, less frequent ovulation, and poorer egg quality, age is not an automatic issue. Your doctor or midwife can order tests if they are concerned about ovulation, which is only one aspect of?fertility testing.

Your infertility treatment plan will depend on the cause or causes behind your infertility and can range from simply monitoring ovulation to taking an oral medication to in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Staying Pregnant

Every pregnancy carries the?risk of miscarriage, and that risk goes up with age.?? Many miscarriages can be a result of chromosomal abnormalities, and the chance of a baby having these abnormalities also goes up with the age of the mother, particularly after age 35.??

The following chronic conditions can also complicate your pregnancy and increase your risk of having a miscarriage:??

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid

Identifying or managing any chronic conditions before you are pregnant can minimize the risk of miscarriage. Meeting with your healthcare provider for a preconception work-up prior to trying to conceive is an important step.

Managing Body Changes

The?older you are, the more challenging the physical changes of pregnancy may be on your body.?Luckily, many women in their 30s are used to being physically active and have a well-established fitness routine.

If you are already exercising, there is usually no reason to stop just because you are pregnant. In fact, staying physically fit and active during your pregnancy can help you to feel strong and minimize?pregnancy-related discomforts. Some studies even show that women who stay active during pregnancy have easier and shorter labors.??

If you have not been exercising, starting a gentle program of swimming,?yoga,?or walking under your provider's guidance can offer a lot of benefits throughout your pregnancy, including helping to reduce stress and improve your physical condition.

Check with your doctor or midwife at your first prenatal to discuss your physical activity and determine if you need to make any changes to what you are currently doing.

Navigating Emotional Changes

The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can affect your emotions, and this is true regardless of your age. If you're feeling alone or depressed or can't seem to get negative emotions under control, it's essential to reach out for help. Contact your doctor and let them know how you're feeling.

If you have other friends in their 30s who are also having babies, consider sharing your feelings and experiences with them. You can also look for online pregnancy support groups and social events in your community to connect with others who are experiencing the highs and lows of pregnancy.

Genetic Issues

Genetic screening is great for some families because the procedure (which is just a simple blood test) doesn't pose any major risks to the mother or baby, and the results can help you decide if?further, more invasive genetic testing?is more appropriate for your family.

Genetic Screening

Genetic screenings?may be offered during your prenatal care appointments, especially if you are 35 or older (which is considered advanced maternal age). The test results tell you about the likelihood of your baby being born with a genetic problem.

According to the National Down Syndrome Society?, a woman at age 30 has a 1 in 940?chance of having a baby with Down syndrome.?By age 35, the risk goes up to 1 in 353. As you enter your 40s, the risk approaches 1 in 85.??

At 35, your screening might say that your blood tests indicate your risk of having a child with Down syndrome is 1 in 500 for this pregnancy. This would be considered a negative screening because the actual risk determined by the screening was better than your statistical risk (1 in 353 for a woman at 35).

If your test indicated a 1 in 147 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome, this is considered a positive screening. This means that your risk of giving birth to a baby with Down syndrome is higher than your statistical risk.

Genetic screening does not say with certainty that your baby has a genetic problem, it merely calculates the risks compared to your age group.

Genetic Testing

Unlike genetic screening, genetic testing actually provides you with an accurate picture of your baby's genetics and a diagnosis. The trade-off is that the genetic testing procedures—amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (CVS)—do pose a potential risk to your baby.

In your 30s, depending on if you are 35 or older, genetic screening and testing may require thoughtful consideration and discussion with your doctor or midwife.

Twins and Multiples

The?chances of having twins increase with age due to natural hormonal fluctuations?as you age.?? The chance of having multiples isn't really something that becomes a significant increase until after 35. The increase observed in older mothers can also be caused by an increase in the use of fertility treatments.

Labor and Birth

Pregnancy in your 30s has the potential to be more complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Discussing any possible health risks with your healthcare provider and keeping up with consistent prenatal care can help you to remain healthy and quickly identify and treat any potential complications.

In your late 30s, you might be at an increased risk of:??

Just because there is an increased risk of having a complication does not mean that you will absolutely have one. Most pregnancies for women in their 30s proceed without any difficulties.

If this is not your first baby, the risk of preterm labor and birth is less than a mother having her first?baby over 40.??

A Word From Verywell

While there may be some challenges getting pregnant and having a baby in your 30s, especially after 35, managing your physical and emotional health, receiving proper prenatal care, and seeking support from peers can help increase the likelihood of having a healthy, happy pregnancy and baby.

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Article Sources
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  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Having a baby after age thirty-five. FAQ060. 2015.

  3. Barakat R, Franco E, Perales M, López C, Mottola MF. Exercise during pregnancy is associated with a shorter duration of labor: A randomized clinical trial. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol. 2018;224:33-40. doi:10.1016/j.ejogrb.2018.03.009.?

  4. National Down Syndrome Society. Down Syndrome.

  5. Sohn K. The trend in the relationship of advanced maternal age to preterm birth and low birthweight. Eur J Contracept Reprod Health Care. 2017;22(5):363-368. doi:10.1080/13625187.2017.1372569.?