The Health Risks & Complications Of Giving Birth In Your 40’s

Written by Karli Steenkamp

Times have considerably changed and in an era where the biggest moral fight is about equality in the workplace more and more women have babies later in life. Whether the decision is to travel, focus on a career or waiting to find ‘the one’, many women don’t have babies in their 20’s anymore. This is proven by Live science that states that the number of woman having babies over 30 have nearly doubled since1993.

A pregnancy takes its toll on any woman, doesn’t matter what her age. Many women over 40 are lucky to be pregnant as fertility has severely dropped at this age. Many women over 40 have had healthy babies and beautiful pregnancies, however over 35 the risks for you and your baby significantly increases. It is important to not be scared of the facts, but aware so that you can go into your pregnancy ready and know what your doctor’s are concerned about. 


High blood pressure 

Any pre-existing medical condition that you might have had before you fell pregnant, can cause problems during your pregnancy. It is important to tell your doctor about these so that it can be monitored. One of these pre-existing conditions can be high blood pressure.

Over 35 women are twice likely to have high blood pressure even though it might not even be a pre-existing condition. High blood pressure can lead to pre-eclampsia which affects your organs. It can put your baby into danger as well, because the fetus will not be able to receive all the nutrients and oxygen he or she needs to grow. The only treatment for this condition is to deliver your baby even though your baby might not be ready for the big world. 

Placenta previa 

Problems with your placenta can be monitored during the pregnancy. Placenta previa is when your placenta is lying unusually low and covering your cervix. This can eventually lead to bleeding and a c-section will need to be done. This condition can correct itself during the pregnancy. 

Gestational diabetes 

Gestational diabetes is a type of diabetes some women get during pregnancy, most of the time it usually disappears after birth. Diabetes can have complications for you and your baby, however with the advice of your doctor it can be managed. 

Down syndrome 

The risk of Down syndrome increases significantly with age. Down syndrome is a chromosome disorder which causes children to have an intellectual disability. For women in their 30’s the chances of having a Down syndrome baby are 1/1000. For women over 40 the numbers are 1/100. There are tests your doctor can do very early in your pregnancy, if you wish, to detect Down syndrome. 

Other risks 

Having a baby in your 40’s increases your risk of having a miscarriage or stillbirth. Your doctor will monitor your baby closely within the last few weeks of the pregnancy. The risk to you after childbirth is just as high even if there weren’t any complications during the pregnancy itself. These risks include blood clots or bleeding, overall health and damage to organs.  

Ectopic pregnancies, where the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, is common in women that are older. Unfortunately in this case the pregnancy will most likely be terminated as it is too dangerous to carry the baby to term. 

Another risk is that there is a good chance your baby can be delivered prematurely or have a low birth weight. It is important to remember as we age, so does our bodies. Over 40 you most likely will have a caesarean birth.  

In every pregnancy there are risks, doesn’t matter what your age. Doctor’s are trained to deal with worst case scenarios and there are many women who have babies later in life. It is important to know the risk, but not to let it consume you and keep you from enjoying the miracle of carrying your child.

It is essential to have good antenatal care and be aware of your body as well as the movements of your baby. Many older women have successfully delivered healthy babies. The reassurance that you are older and wiser makes many women enjoy this experience more and be tolerant of the symptoms and sleepless nights. It has its pros and cons, but know your facts and know your body and take it easy.  

Live Science: Hannah Brown
Better health Channel
ABC Health & Wellbeing