Why 37-year-old Meghan Markle’s pregnancy was considered ‘geriatric’
Meghan Markle delivered a healthy baby boy on Monday, and both the newest royal baby and his mother are reported to be happy and healthy.
It might seem odd, but did you know that her pregnancy was classified as “geriatric” or “high risk” because of her age? Most wouldn’t associate a 37-year-old with the term “geriatric,” but in the world of pregnancy, age can play a big factor in mom’s experience and the health of baby.
What does age have to do with it? There are several reasons why a woman’s pregnancy can be considered high-risk, including inherited genetically based conditions, medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes, hormone-based issues and even age. Medically speaking, when a woman reaches her 35th birthday, she’s considered to be of advanced maternal age and therefore high risk or geriatric.
It’s important to know there’s a big difference between potential complications at age 35 versus 40, Dr. Rich Mastrolia, a maternal fetal medicine specialist at Aurora West Allis Medical Center in West Allis, Wis., says.
“There is increased risk of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities, low birth weight, preeclampsia and gestational diabetes at age 35; however, these risks increase significantly at age 40 or greater,” Dr. Mastrolia says.
For example, you can see the chances of having a baby with Down syndrome by age from the American College for Obstetricians and Gynecologists:
- 1 in 1,480 at age 20
- 1 in 940 at age 30
- 1 in 353 at age 35
- 1 in 85 at age 40
- 1 in 35 at age 45
“Much of this is a product of the body getting older and not functioning as efficiently at age 40 compared to age 20,” explains Dr. Mastrolia. “The placenta doesn’t function or implant as well, which is associated with many adverse pregnancy outcomes.”
Preeclampsia and diabetes can actually happen as a result of pregnancy and all the hormonal changes that mom’s body is going through.
Of course, many women have healthy pregnancies in their 30s and early 40s. There are two key things you can do to have a healthy pregnancy:
- See an OB/GYN or midwife before getting pregnant and talk to them about family planning. A conversation prior to pregnancy is a valuable opportunity to make sure you are healthy before getting pregnant, discuss medical history, review medications you take and identify health issues prior to conception.
- Go to your prenatal care appointments. At these appointments, your provider monitors blood pressure, blood sugar and weight gain. Screenings are also done at key milestones of pregnancy to identify any conditions that may arise.
Even a young, low-risk patient can become high risk, so pick a provider that you trust and a place of care that offers access to high-risk practitioners.
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