"There is also a higher incidence of problems when the father is 40 and over," adds developmental pediatrician, Dr. Rachelle Tyler, MD, assistant professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the UCLA School of Medicine.
Many doctors suggest genetic counseling and amniocentesis for older parents. Dr. Donald R. Mattison, MD, medical director for the March of Dimes, recommends preconception medical checkups for both the potential mom and dad. "This is critical for both parents. Individual and family histories should be discussed including diseases and medications they are taking. And the woman will be encouraged to take a multivitamin containing 400 micrograms of folic acid every day even before she is pregnant."
Dr. Nancy S. Green, MD, associate medical director of the March of Dimes says, "Older mothers may have an increased cumulative exposure to environmental toxins and some of these toxins increase the likelihood of birth defects. Also, there is an increased risk of prematurity, presumably related to these issues."
Your Age and Your Limitations
According to Dr. Mattison if a woman is healthy and all indicators are normal, the pregnancy should be similar to that of a younger mother. And even if she has complications, age may not be the culprit. Lori Curci-Reed of Kailua, Hawaii, a first-time mom at age 36, was diagnosed with preeclampsia during the last six weeks of her pregnancy, a condition not necessarily related to age. Fortunately, the preeclampsia has since subsided, but she's also noticed extreme fatigue. "It was difficult bouncing back after Anthony Jacob was born. I felt very weak for an extended period of time."
Most mothers agree that tiredness is a common complaint regardless of maternal age. But for Laura Calverley of Bergenfield, New Jersey, the 38-year-old mother of a 1-year-old named Kate, the big question is, "Will I find the strength when I need it?" Calverley who has always maintained a healthy lifestyle, is optimistic. "I've been running after Kate for a year now and I can still catch her when I want to!"