Is There a Higher Risk of Miscarriage for Mothers Over 40?
Women over 40 have higher risks when they’re pregnant; there is an increased risk of the child being born with Down’s Syndrome, a higher risk of pregnancy induced hypertension or high blood pressure, and an increased risk of preterm labor. There is also a higher risk of miscarriage for women over 40.
Miscarriages are actually not that uncommon; some 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage, and in many cases a woman doesn’t even know that she’s miscarried because she hasn’t even discovered a pregnancy since they happen so early. A woman may assume she’s simply had a heavy period or an irregular period when it’s actually been the body miscarrying.
The longer you’ve been pregnant, the lower your risk of miscarriage. There is a 30% chance of miscarrying within the first few weeks of conception, but after 35 or 50 days of pregnancy, that risk is reduced to 25%. By 12 weeks, your risk of miscarrying is greatly reduced.
The risk of miscarrying after 40 is greater than for other age groups. For women under the age of 35, the risk is around 6%. For women 35 to 40, the risk is about 15%. For women over 40, there is a 23% risk of miscarrying.
There is still much to be learned about what causes a miscarriage and why it’s a greater risk as you get older. Genetics seem to play a role as some women miscarrying repeatedly. Some women seem to have hormonal imbalances that put them at a higher risk for miscarrying; those who have irregular or difficult periods often find it harder to conceive and a harder time carrying a pregnancy to term. Smoking also greatly increases the risk of miscarrying as the cigarette smoke may choke out the needed oxygen and other nutrients for the womb. It can also interfere with a woman’s blood circulation and may kill off healthy blood cells.
An abnormal cervix can also cause miscarriages, as this means the fetus cannot grow properly and develop in a healthy way. Diabetes may also contribute to the risk of miscarrying and many older women are at a higher risk of getting gestational diabetes from the pregnancy, also increasing their risk of miscarrying. Extreme physical stress may play a role, and exposure to certain toxins or chemicals are also a risk factor.
If you’re pregnant at any age you want to be in constant touch with your doctor about your health and risk factors, and especially so if you’re over 40. Be sure you follow your doctor’s instructions carefully and give yourself the rest you need when stressed or overexerted. This will help to reduce your risk factors for miscarrying.