...but hav­ing a baby over 44 CAN be a risk

Older moth­ers are ten times more likely to end up in in­ten­sive care

Daily Mail - - Election 2017 - Sci­ence Cor­re­spon­dent By Victoria Allen

WOMEN who leave it late to have chil­dren are at a much greater risk of se­vere com­pli­ca­tions, ex­perts warn. Those who be­come moth­ers over 44 were more than twice as likely to die or suf­fer a se­ri­ous con­di­tion than those who gave birth in their 20s, a study found.

They were also more than ten times as likely to end up in in­ten­sive care than those who have a child in their early twen­ties.

While many stud­ies have sug­gested older moth­ers are more likely to have a still­birth or a baby with con­di­tions such as autism and Down’s syn­drome, there is less re­search about the risk to their own health.

Lead au­thor Dr Sarka Lisonkova, as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor in ma­ter­nal medicine at the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia in Canada, said: ‘Women usu­ally worry about their ba­bies, and not so much about the im­pli­ca­tions for their own health.

‘While se­vere ad­verse con­di­tions in moth­ers are rare, they do in­crease more rapidly with age at child­birth in women’s late 40s or later. It is im­por­tant to coun­sel women about all po­ten­tial risks.’

She added: ‘Women are in a dif­fi­cult po­si­tion when they con­tem­plate de­lay­ing child­birth in or­der to ad­vance their education and ca­reer. Higher education and higher so­cio-eco­nomic sta­tus are as­so­ci­ated with im­proved birth out­comes, but in con­trast, older ma­ter­nal age is a risk fac­tor.’

Older moth­ers are at a higher risk be­cause they are more likely to be over­weight and un­healthy. The fact their re­pro­duc­tive sys­tems are older also means a greater risk of com­pli­ca­tions – which in­clude rup­tures, em­bolisms, hys­terec­tomies, sep­sis and heart prob­lems.

The re­searchers looked at moth­ers aged 15 to 60 giv­ing birth in Wash­ing­ton State be­tween 2003 and 2013. They looked at 828,269 live and still­births, but did not in­clude twins and other mul­ti­ple births.

Among those aged 20 to 24, the rate of those dy­ing or suf­fer­ing a po­ten­tially life-threat­en­ing con­di­tion was 156.2 per 10,000 births. It was slightly lower for those aged 25 to 29, with a rate of 143.4. This rose to 230.8 for moth­ers aged 40 to 44, and to 355.1 per 10,000 births for those aged over 44 – mean­ing al­most dou­ble the risk of those in their 20s.

The rate of ad­mis­sions to in­ten­sive care was 80.2 per 10,000 de­liv­er­ies for moth­ers over 44 com­pared to just 7.1 among those aged 20 to 24.

How­ever, the ab­so­lute risk for all age groups re­mained low. Even for those aged over 44, just 3 per cent suf­fered se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions or death.

Al­most one in six moth­ers over 44 suf­fered di­a­betes dur­ing their preg­nancy, and were also at greater risk of kid­ney failure, ac­cord­ing to the study, which was pub­lished in the jour­nal PLOS Medicine.

Dr Lisonkova said preg­nancy places in­creased de­mands on a woman’s body, but added that stay­ing healthy and a nor­mal weight de­creases the risks.

The au­thors wrote: ‘These re­sults should im­prove coun­selling to women who con­tem­plate de­lay­ing child­birth. As ma­ter­nal age con­tin­ues to in­crease, the rate of se­vere ma­ter­nal mor­bid­ity is likely to in­crease.’

De­spite health warn­ings, Bri­tish women over 40 now have more ba­bies than those un­der 20.

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