Excerpted from "A Year of Health Hints"
365 Practical Ways to Feel Better and Live Longer
Many women are marrying later, and some postpone having
children until their thirties. So the number of women becoming
pregnant after the age of 35 has increased, posing a number of
potential problems. Chances for conception decrease with age. The
incidence of miscarriage and premature birth is slightly higher
in later-life pregnancies. So is the likelihood that the mother
will develop diabetes or high blood pressure. The chances that a
baby will be born with a genetic defect increases, too. So along
with other health considerations, a pregnant woman in her
midthirties or older should take these added precautions.
Don't gain more
than 25 or 30 pounds during pregnancy, and don't eat foods high
in salt and
sugar, to guard
against high blood pressure and diabetes.
Talk to your
doctor about prenatal genetic tests.
Usually performed at about 16 weeks of pregnancy,
amniocentesis can detect Down's syndrome, Tay-Sachs disease,
sickle cell anemia, Rh incompatibility, or spina bifida.
(Amniocentesis will also reveal the sex of the child, but it's
never done for that purpose alone.) The doctor uses a long needle
to draw out a sample of amniotic fluid, which is tested for
genetic abnormalities. The test itself presents some risk--there
is about 1 chance in 400 that a miscarriage may occur within
three weeks after the procedure is performed.
Amniocentesis is justified under the following conditions.
woman is 35 years old or older.
Someone in the
mother's or father's immediate family (a parent, sibling, or
child) has a genetic
or metabolic disorder.
There is a family
history of hemophilia (a bleeding disorder) or spina bifida (a
neural tube defect).
pregnancy produced a baby with chromosome abnormalities.
Amniocentesis can't detect abnormalities such as a club foot
or cleft palate, so normal results don't necessarily guarantee a
Another technique called chorionic villous sampling analyzes a
small sample of the placenta and can be performed much earlier
than amniocentesis, in the eighth to tenth week of pregnancy. The
earlier testing is done, the more time the prospective parents
and their doctor have to decide on the best course of action.