We already know fertility declines as you age, and the chances of conceiving a baby with birth defects increases, as does the likelihood you will delivery prematurely. Now, in yet another blow to women who have babies after 40, a large new study out of the University of Minnesota says they are 60 percent more likely to have a stroke.
The reason, according to the research, is that older moms tend to have more preexisting health conditions when they conceive, including high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
Researchers are now cautioning women older than 40 that their decision to have a baby could have long-lasting repercussions for their health.
The study looked at 72,000 women over the course of 12 years. Five percent gave birth after 40. Researchers found this group was:
Despite these extremely alarming statistics, it's worth mentioning the overall risk of health complications for women who have babies after 40 is low. In other words, a younger mom's risk is very low, so the increased risk for an older mom is minimal.
"Women with a late pregnancy need to be aware of their increased risk and take steps to improve their cardiovascular health," said lead researcher and professor Adnan Qureshi. "Their doctors need to remain vigilant years later in monitoring these women's risk factors through physical examination, and perhaps more tests and earlier interventions to prevent stroke and other cardiovascular events."
Of course, women having babies later in life is more common than ever, as pregnancy is delayed for career, and other factors. I'd venture to say having a baby after 40 has in part been normalized because of how many celebrity moms do it, from Halle Berry, to Gwen Stefani, and most recently, Alanis Morissette. But many of these women are using IVF or donor eggs, which is cost prohibitive for most of us.
Incidentally, women who never have babies also face increased adverse health risks. So...maybe you can't win?!
With regards to family planning, you just have to do what's right for you, when it's right. At any point you decide to conceive, or um, have an oops baby, your health should be a top priority. That's really the best way to protect yourself against stroke, heart disease, and every other disease, now and in the future.
What's your take?
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and a mom. Follow her on Twitter (@Spitupnsuburbs), where she chronicles her love of exercising and drinking coffee, but never simultaneously.