Staying healthy can prevent problems with high-risk pregnancies
June 13, 2008 · Updated 10:16 AM
"Maintaining good health can do more to help a woman in her mid-30s to mid-40s have a easy pregnancy and healthy baby than just about anything else.If a woman is reasonably healthy going into a pregnancy, she should be sure she will be reasonably healthy throughout the pregnancy, says Dr. Tracy Contant, who works at Franciscan Health System's Women's Health Center in Federal Way. They should not be dissuaded.Plenty of information exists that could dissuade a middle-age woman from having a child. Unlike men, who can produce sperm into their senior years, women are born with all the eggs they'll ever have. As they age, their ability to recruit those eggs decreases, Contant says. Also, the health of the genetic material in the eggs decreases. Some older women, though it remains a small number, must ultimately seek fertility help to have a child.The risks increase more dramatically for women who smoke, don't eat nutritionally, don't exercise or suffer from some ailment associated with midlife. If you know your pregnancy is a bit more of a challenge, why not go into it with the best possible groundwork? asks Contant, who had her first child when she was 36.Women over 35 are more likely to have developed chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiac diseases, thyroid disorders, asthma, kidney disease, collagen vascular disease and uterine malformations.Women age 40 and older, for example, are almost three times as likely to develop diabetes, and almost twice as likely to develop high blood pressure during their pregnancies as women in their 20s.Even women who don't have these health problems are at increased risk of developing gestational diabetes or gestational hypertension, Contant says.It's easier for Contant to predict an older woman's relative ease with pregnancy if she's had children before. Then, Contant knows the woman's body is capable of going through a vaginal labor. The overall best predictor of a woman's fertility remains her monthly period.If a woman has regular periods within a day or two window, it's one of the (best) signs everything's going to be all right, she says. "