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Advanced Maternal Age
The phrase “maternal age” refers to how old a woman is when she gives birth. In recent decades, many developed countries have seen an increase in the average maternal age. There are many valid reasons to postpone having children, and many women in their late thirties and forties are able to safely deliver healthy babies. However, it is important to note that “advanced maternal age” – which, according to many experts, is as young as 35 – is a risk factor for a variety of issues that can occur during pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
One common health concern in older mothers is high blood pressure or preeclampsia (high blood pressure that develops during pregnancy). This places the mother at risk for central nervous system issues, seizures, blood clots, and liver and kidney failure. It can also cause premature delivery, low blood flow to the fetus, and a very dangerous pregnancy complication called placental abruption. There is also an increased risk of another dangerous pregnancy complication called hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE).
Another problem that becomes more common with age is diabetes. This includes gestational diabetes, which happens when a previously non-diabetic woman develops diabetes during pregnancy. Babies of diabetic mothers are more likely to be macrosomic (unusually large), which puts them at an increased risk for birth trauma and neonatal hypoglycemia. Maternal diabetes can also lead to premature birth, jaundice, birth asphyxia, and reduced uteroplacental perfusion (RUPP), which harms both mother and child by reducing blood flow between them.
Although 35 is often used as a cut-off point for increased risk, the reality is likely more nuanced. Kenny et al. (2013) found that risk increases on a continuum after the age of 29. Lisonkova et al. (2017) found drastic increases in risk as women enter their forties and fifties (we discuss their study in more detail here).
Overall, research indicates that as women get older, their pregnancies become more high-risk. Fortunately, healthy habits and proper prenatal care for high-risk pregnancies can do a lot to minimize the chances of illness and injury. Obstetricians should carefully assess their patients for conditions such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, and monitor the baby for issues like macrosomia or signs of fetal distress.
If medical professionals fail to follow standards of care in treating a patient with advanced maternal age or other high-risk factors, this is considered negligence. If negligent behavior results in harm to the mother or baby, it is medical malpractice.
Legal Help for Birth Injuries
The award-winning attorneys at Reiter & Walsh ABC Law Centers have decades of joint experience with birth injury cases. A frustrating reality is that many of our clients’ children were injured during pregnancy or birth because clinicians ignored risk factors and warning signs. Sometimes, these injuries result in lifelong disabilities such as hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and cerebral palsy.
To find out if you have a case, contact our firm to speak with one of our attorneys. We have numerous multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to our success, and no fees are ever paid to our firm until we win your case. We give personal attention to each child and family we help, and our attorneys are available 24/7 to speak with you.
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- Kenny, Louise C., et al. “Advanced maternal age and adverse pregnancy outcome: evidence from a large contemporary cohort.” PloS one 8.2 (2013): e56583.
- Lisonkova, Sarka, et al. “Maternal age and severe maternal morbidity: A population-based retrospective cohort study.” PLoS Medicine 14.5 (2017): e1002307.