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More and more women are choosing to have kids later on in life than their moms, aunts and grandmothers did. But, what does this mean for mom and baby and what steps can you take for a healthy pregnancy?

What does “high-risk pregnancy” mean?

As more women continue to start their families later in life, there’s been an increase in new mothers developing certain complications during their pregnancies. When a woman becomes pregnant at or after age 35, she is considered a high-risk pregnancy.

High-risk pregnancies mean there is an increased risk for several high-risk conditions during pregnancy, including:

  • Pregnancy with multiples
  • Premature birth
  • Increased chance of C-section
  • High blood pressure
  • Gestational diabetes
  • Birth defects
  • Miscarriage
  • Difficult labor


As women get older, it’s more likely for them to develop conditions that would classify them as high-risk when they become pregnant. “Typically, this  means that an expectant mother will need more care throughout her pregnancy, taking all measures possible for a healthy nine months,” says Dr. Keith Williams, an obstetrician-gynecologist (OBGYN) at Geisinger Medical Center.

Some pre-pregnancy health conditions can increase your chances of having a high-risk pregnancy, too. If you suffer from high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, an autoimmune disease or a chronic infection, you may be considered a high-risk pregnancy, oftentimes regardless of your age.

“With any preexisting conditions, you should speak with your doctor before you try to become pregnant, as well as review your family health history,” says Dr. Williams. However, this isn’t always possible. If you become pregnant unexpectedly after age 35, remember that communication with your care team is key – they will take the necessary steps to help you have a healthy, full-term pregnancy.

Having a baby after 35

Today, doctors know more about later-in-life pregnancies than ever before – they know what to look for, so outcomes are much more successful that they were in the past. However, there are some complications that women age 35 or older may have a hard time avoiding – one of the most common being difficulty conceiving.

“If you’re 35 or older and trying to conceive, there are some measures you can take to boost your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy,” says Dr. Williams. “Take steps to receive proper care at a facility that provides care for high-risk pregnancies and fertility treatment, if needed.”   

Your doctor may also recommend taking these steps if you’re considering starting a family at or after 35: 

  • Get proper immunizations before becoming pregnant
  • Avoid cigarettes, second-hand smoke, drugs and alcohol
  • Exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight, until your doctor advises you to stop
  • Eat a healthy diet to support both you and your baby
  • Schedule regular appointments with your doctor throughout your pregnancy

First-time pregnancies typically have more complications than succeeding pregnancies. “If you have had children before, you may not be as high a risk as first-time, high-risk mothers of the same age,” says Dr. Williams. “Your body knows what to do, and the healthier you are, the more ready your body will be to carry full-term.”

Next steps:

Make a prenatal appointment
Learn more about pregnancy care at Geisinger

A man and woman with hands on her baby bump.