Posts Tagged ‘ pregnancy complications ’

Pregnant Over 50: What Are the Risks?

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Writer Judith Lederman shared her story of being pregnant at 53—and just this weekend, gave birth to her twin sons. According to her doctor, high-risk OB/GYN Alvin Schoenberger in Novi, MI, attempting pregnancy after the age of 45 is not for the faint of heart. “There are some risks that are increased just because of your age, and have nothing to do with pregnancy, such as heart disease,” he says. “But advanced maternal age also puts you at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, preeclampsia, miscarriage, stillbirth, placenta previa, and increased risk of having kids with congenital anomalies.”

These increased rates of complications are significant— children born to mothers over 45 have a one in 40 chance (or even greater) of having Down Syndrome. In his practice, it’s rare for patients over 45 to attempt pregnancy. ”In the early 40s, some of these risks are increasing. But pregnancy in your late 40s a little more uncharted waters, and over age 50 I’ve only had one patient. It’s simply not that common.”

Before you consider an over-45 pregnancy, you need to consider what risks you and your child will face, and what you would do if, for instance, some of the prenatal testing indicated Down Syndrome or another chromosomal abnormality. You may also need to consult with a fertility specialist, as achieving pregnancy after 45 without intervention is uncommon. “It’s a rare, rare, rare mother who is 50 years old who hasn’t had some form of fertility treatment,” says Dr. Schoenberger.

If you are considering pregnancy over 45, Dr. Schoenberger advises you to get fit—and get informed—pronto. “Stay in good shape, ideally be at ideal body weight, and exercise,” he says. “You also should know all the statistics of what you’re getting into, especially the increased risk for chromosomal problems. And make sure you think about the other end of things. You need to consider what happens when your child is 15 and you’re not in good health or not even around.” That’s especially important if your child does have Down Syndrome or another issue that may make it difficult for him to live a fully independent life as an adult.

But as long as you’re in good health—and you’re prepared for any potential worst-case scenarios—pregnancy over 45 (or even 50) can be a possibility.

Image: Pregnant woman by Nizzam/

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Death At Downton Abbey: Preeclampsia Then And Now

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Downton Abbey preeclampsia then and nowPart of the reason why I love Downton Abbey is that it’s so real. No, of course there was no real-life Lady Mary, and the Dowager Countess never really asked, “What is a weekend?!” But the show is so well researched that I always feel I’m learning a bit of history while I’m getting my juicy TV fix. (Spoiler Alert! I will be divulging a major plot point, though won’t say which charatcer it affects.) This week’s episode was no exception, bringing maternal health into the spotlight when one of the characters died of eclampsia, a very serious complication of pregnancy that results from untreated preeclampsia.

Curious about what treatments were available for women suffering from preeclampsia in the times of Downton Abbey, I did a quick look into what maternal health practices were like back then. Turns out, preeclampsia wasn’t even a named disorder until 1920–the year this season is set in. Now I totally get why the attending doctor’s diagnosis of eclampsia was challenged on this week’s episode. Before 1920, eclampsia deaths were chalked up to “convulsions” and left at that, and even in 1920, since the identification of the disorder was so new, only the top doctors (like the ones the Crawleys have) were fully aware of it.

Luckily for moms-to-be everywhere, we’ve come a long way medically since the times of Downton Abbey. Although preeclampsia still affects five to eight percent of pregnancies according to the Preeclampsia Foundation–and yes, it still can be fatal–doctors know to screen pregnant women’s blood pressure and urine carefully at every office visit for signs of the disorder. Today, mild preeclampsia diagnosed pre-term can sometimes be held at bay through hospitalized bed rest, although many cases necessitate induced delivery to save the mother’s life.

Do you watch Downton Abbey? Were you as shocked by the eclampsia death as I was?

Image via PBS. 

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