Motherhood: Is having a baby later in life a good idea?

A mother and her newborn. Net photo.

Josephine Umurengezi, a Gisozi sector habitant is aged 38 .Recently she gave birth to her first child. She named her ‘Grace’. For her this name means a lot to her due to her pregnancy and delivery complications. Her baby is a heavenly miracle.

Umurengezi briefly explains that from the first day of pregnancy, she had not rested. At many occasions she was hospitalized with iron deficiency, high blood pressure, seizure to name but a few. I feared I would miscarry anytime.

Her experience can bring one to wonder what could have been triggering her complications.

Studies suggests that late motherhood (35 and above) put women in danger of a variety of major pregnancy complications.

While it’s possible for a woman to give birth into her 36s, 40 s 50s and even beyond fertility experts warn there are dangers no one seems to be talking about. On average, between age 20 and 30, for women, the monthly chance of conceiving is 25 per cent and it declines from there. Beyond age 40, their monthly chance of conceiving is 5 per cent, and pregnancy after age 45 is rare according to experts.

Maj Dr Théogène Rurangwa, an obstetrician gynecologist at Rwanda Military Hospital argued that normally women are born with a couple of million eggs, start losing them by the minute. The vast majority of the eggs within the ovaries steadily die, until they are depleted at menopause.

“At birth, there are approximately 1 million to 2 million eggs; by the time of puberty, only about 300,000 remain. Of these, only about 500 will be ovulated during a woman’s reproductive lifetime. Any remaining eggs gradually die out at menopause,” he argued.

He explains that while there have been tremendous scientific advances in fertility treatments, like in vitro fertilization (IVF), absolutely nothing can help a woman to conceive with their own eggs when they are too old. “Women eggs have an expiry date, and for most women it’s in their early 40s. This fact should be take into consideration so women can make informed decisions about their fertility,” said Dr Rurangwa. .

The study conducted by  University of British Columbia Children’s and Women’s Health Center in Vancouver, which have been published inPeer- Reviewed Open- Access Journal  researchers examined data on all singleton births to 828,269 women in Washington State from 2003 to 2013.

Compared with mothers aged 25 to 29, women aged 35 to 39 were 20 percent more likely to have severe complications, and the odds were more than quintupled for women 50 and older, researchers report in PLoS Medicine.

Women 35 and older were also eight times more likely to have amniotic fluid enter their bloodstream, a complication that can cause a life-threatening allergic reaction, the study found.

Mothers 40 and older were almost 16 times more likely to have kidney failure and almost three times more likely to have obstetric shock, when organs don’t get enough blood and oxygen, the study found.

Dr Iba Mayele , a gunecologist at Galien Clinic, Kimironko said thatreports  of a miracle babies in later motherhood should not give women false reassurance because female reproductive organ anatomy has  hasn’t changed  and therefore,  the younger the patient gets pregnant, the healthier the pregnancy  and baby will be.

“After age 35, pregnancy is more difficult because of less frequent ovulation. Also, women 35-45 have a 20-35% chance of miscarriage, compared with women under 35 that average a 15-20% chance of miscarriage. Other complications include gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and intrauterine growth restriction (causing premature delivery).

They are also more likely to have a C-section, because older uteruses often do not contract as well as needed for vaginal delivery. Babies born to older moms are also more likely to develop chromosomal problems,” he mentioned.

However, women aren’t the only factor. Even though men can conceive later in life, men over 40 are at high risk of having a child with complications like Autism or still birth, said Mayele.

According to fertility experts technologies suggestthat if one is not ready to contemplate pregnancy now, you might consider egg-freezing. Egg-freezing involves removing eggs (usually 10 to 20) from your ovaries and freezing them. Then sometime in the future, the eggs can be thawed and fertilised with sperm to hopefully achieve a pregnancy. If a woman freezes her eggs before age 35, she drastically increases her chance to become pregnant and increases the chance her child will be healthy.


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