What Is A Geriatric Pregnancy? GERIATRIC, Really?

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The 21st century has seen many changes in the way we live AND reproduce! The average age of first births in the United States has risen for decades. Nowadays, women are having children later, if at all. That’s leading to more women having a geriatric pregnancy, or pregnancy in a woman over the age of 35.

(record scratch)

Excuse me, what? Since when do we consider 35 geriatric?!

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What is a geriatric pregnancy?

A geriatric pregnancy is a pregnancy in which the woman is 35 years of age or older.

Now, please don’t shoot the messenger. I’m just repeating what the experts have said.

As someone who had her last baby juuuuust under the geriatric pregnancy wire, I can understand why women bristle at the term.

“Geriatric” is a word usually reserved for the elderly. No matter how old you may be at delivery, if you’re carrying and birthing a human, I’d hardly consider you elderly!

Why do we still use the term geriatric pregnancy?

That’s a fair question. Many women and medical professionals believe this term is outdated and should be changed. When approximately one in six pregnancies in the United States is in women 35 and older, it seems a little odd to “other” those pregnancies in this way. Pregnancy at or over 35 is hardly unusual.

As a result, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has adopted the slightly friendlier term “advanced maternal age.” Of course, some providers still continue to use the term geriatric pregnancy — and even advanced maternal age rubs some women the wrong way.

On the other hand, other experts argue the terms exist for a reason. The risks of certain medical conditions, such as high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, increase in likelihood with age.

The same is true for some chromosomal abnormalities in the fetus, such as Down Syndrome. Using age 35 as a marker can help guide medical professionals as they watch for elevated risks in these pregnancies.

geriatric pregnancy pregnant mom and two daughters standing in nature

Even at an advanced maternal age – your odds of a healthy pregnancy are still very good

It’s easy to get freaked out by all the talk of increased risks with a geriatric pregnancy or advanced maternal age. (Ooof, even writing these terms out, I feel like I’m betraying my fellow women.)

Try not to panic. If you’re over 35 and pregnant — or even thinking about becoming pregnant — the odds are still on your side. Most women over 35 go on to have healthy pregnancies and deliver healthy babies.

Plus, while risks do increase with age, it’s not as if a switch suddenly goes off at age 35. The increase in risk is more gradual than that. Using myself as an example, I wasn’t notably safer delivering my youngest at 34.5 than I would have been delivering at 35.  

The best thing you can do to have a safe and healthy pregnancy if you’re over 35 is to make regular prenatal appointments and do your best to stay physically fit.

Come to think of it, those are the best things to do when you’re pregnant at any age. Cheers!

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