Monday, April 18, 2011

First-Time Births Risky Business for Moms Older Than 45

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pregnant after 45

Pushing 50? Know the facts before you get pregnant. Credit: Getty Images

If you're pushing 50 and yearning to be a baby mama, it's doable -- but you may want to pay attention to a new study that finds older first-time moms are more at risk for pregnancy complications.

Seems intuitive, but researchers in Israel have found that eight to 10 women who were pregnant for the first time at the age of 45 or older experienced health problems and nearly half of the babies were smaller than average, Reuters Health reports.

The study is significant as more and more women are waiting to start families. In Israel, first-time births to women older than 45 have more than tripled in the last 10 years, according to the news service.

The researchers studied 131 mothers ranging in age from 45 to 65 who gave birth at the same hospital between 2004 and 2008. In the United States, the number of first-time births to mothers older than 45 still makes up a very small percentage of all deliveries. In 2010, they totaled 2,028, with just 165 of those babies born to new mothers aged 50 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The findings were published in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

One-third of the babies were born prematurely and nearly all were delivered by cesarean section. Pregnancy-related diabetes affected four out of every 10 women and two out of 10 experienced preeclampsia, a potentially dangerous condition that includes high blood pressure and protein in the mother's urine, Reuters reports.

"This study shows that pregnancy after the age of 45 is in fact a risky proposition, and this provides a basis upon which women of this age group can be counseled about those risks," Dr. Richard Paulson, director of the in vitro fertilization program at the University of Southern California who was not involved in the study, tells Reuters.

All of the women in this study had experienced fertility problems and more than half had been pregnant before. All but five of the 131 women underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF), in which a fertilized egg is implanted into the mother's uterus, according to Reuters.

The risks spike with the age of the first-time moms, the study finds. Women older than 50 have a greater risk of having an underweight baby and a premature birth, than women in their late 40s.

Though the health risks are well established, Paulson says "they're not prohibitive risks. People of all ages are interested in having a child and completing their families."

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