CNN Food and Health

Study shows age alone doesn't cause pregnancy complications

doctor

August 21, 1995

From Health Correspondent Ed Garsten

DETROIT, Mich. (CNN)--In about a month, Sandra O'Connell will give birth to her second child. Sandra is 38, her first child, Michael, is two. Rose Schomer is also in her late 30's. She gave birth to her third child, Lucas, 17 months ago. The number of women, like Rose and Sandra, who are having children later in life is growing. "The population of women having children over the age of 35 has exploded over the last 20 years," said Dr. Michael Prysak of St. John's Hospital.

So Dr. Prysak decided to study whether or not age alone made any difference on infant mortality and complications in pregnancy. He compared women 35-39 years old with those 25- 29. The results were surprising and heartening. "It does appear that if you do get pregnant, that the results are good, at least defining the end point, where you have a healthy mother and a healthy baby."

Specifically, the rate of miscarriage and stillbirth was no higher in older women. That's not to say everything's perfect for middle-aged moms. The study shows that while women in the older age group were just as likely as the younger women to deliver healthy babies, there is a greater risk of complications in pregnancy.

Rose and doctor Both Rose and Sandra can attest to that. "About a week and a half before I had the baby, I started having some high blood pressure and not feeling well," recalled Schomer.

O'Connell said, "I had morning sickness for probably the first five months and was so sick around eight weeks with this one, it put me in the hospital for awhile."

In fact, Dr. Prysak says 65 percent of the women in the older age group achieved high risk scores during pregnancy, while only 40 percent of the women in their 20's did. "This includes risk of miscarriage, the risk of hypertension or high blood pressure," he said.

Dr. Prysak says the risks can be lessened with regular medical monitoring. Does that mean O'Connell and Schomer are ready to have more? "This is my last child!" said O'Connell. Schomer agreed, "Oh yeah, no doubt about that."


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