Deciding to have a baby after a certain age may seem frightening for some women. The way in which the medical community has historically framed these pregnancies has only added to the stress those entering motherhood after 35 may feel. These pregnancies are often referred to as geriatric. It is true that the older a mom-to-be is, the more risks she might face. However, doctors like obstetrician and gynecologist Kerry-Anne Perkins says the way medical professionals talk about this demographic is changing. The term geriatric is now considered dated, according to Dr. Perkins.

“The term that we are using now is advanced maternal age,” Dr. Perkins explained. This is a high-risk category, but having a baby past your mid-thirties doesn’t mean you won’t have a good pregnancy.

Getting Pregnant

For many women, having a baby at an advanced maternal age comes as a surprise. Lula Mitchell had her first and only child at 41 years old. She says she had no plans on having children.

“I appreciate my baby more and more every day,” Mitchell said.

Jasmine Griffin is a 37-year-old expectant mom who shares the same sentiments.

“It was a huge surprise. [I] wasn’t expecting this one,” Griffin said.

At 35, Brittany White says she wanted to have a baby. She is 7 weeks pregnant with what will be her fifth child.

“It was planned. But this is it,” White explained.

She says going into the pregnancy, she wasn’t concerned about her age.

“My doctor does not consider women to be of high risk age until they are 38,” she said.

Dr. Perkins stresses the fact that women can safely bear children beyond this age.

“I’ve delivered patients older than 52 [and] 53. Pregnant and still going at it,” the doctor revealed. “You are able to have successful pregnancies beyond 35 and beyond 40.”

Risks for Mom and Baby

Perkins wants moms to think positively about their pregnancies. But it’s important that they are aware of the risks that come with carrying a child past the age of 35. Perkins says the increased chances of complications for the mother can include miscarriages, preterm birth, gestational diabetes, and pre-eclampsia. There are also potential challenges for the baby. For example, Perkins says if a mom faces preterm labor and birth a baby could have issues.

“Difficulty breathing, adjusting to life outside of the womb, and they may need support in the NICU,” Dr. Perkins explained.

She also says babies are at increased risk of having genetic and nervous system issues. Mitchell was warned that this could happen to her baby.

“You are told you are high risk in a certain age range. [I] was told that the baby would possibly have down syndrome,” Mitchell said.

She ended up having no complications during her pregnancy or in labor and delivery.

Before her current pregnancy, White suffered a miscarriage in November 2023. She recently had a scare where she was worried that excessive bleeding and cramping had been the result of yet another miscarriage. She immediately went to the doctor but thankfully received a good report this time.

“[The] baby was still good. Still had a strong heartbeat. Didn’t see any bleeding around the baby,” White said.

She encourages all moms-to-be to remain vigilant with their bodies and advocate for themselves in doctor’s offices.

For Griffin, the biggest difference between her first and second pregnancy was her ability to stay active.

“I’ve noticed that I have to take it easy. My breath is short. I feel this pregnancy,” Griffin said.

She hasn’t dealt with any other problems as she nears the 40-week mark.

For Moms-in-Waiting

Dr. Perkins says any woman of advanced maternal age and actively trying to get pregnant should try to be as healthy as possible. They should eat well-balanced meals, exercise and get the necessary nutrients. Also, keeping track of menstrual cycles and ovulation is important.

She also wants women to remember that the father’s health and age play big role in getting pregnant.

“We don’t talk about the fact that there is an advanced paternal age. The same way we have geriatric mothers, there are geriatric fathers, too. Sperm is no different,” Dr. Perkins explained. 

The doctor recommends following-up with your doctor if you’ve tried to conceive for six months with no success.