Rather than popping out babies during their 20s, many women today choose to have children when they are more financially stable and established in their careers.
Having a baby at a later age can increase the risk of complications, and a new study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, shows that women over the age of 40 are 20 percent more likely to have a baby more than three weeks early compared to those in their early 30s. However, the risk is still relatively low, increasing from a 1 percent risk to a 1.2 percent risk.
During the study, researchers from Canada and France looked at data from the QUARISMA study, which includes information from 184,000 births across 32 different hospitals in Quebec, Canada. The team analyzed data from 165,282 of these births, dividing mothers into five age groups (20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, and 40).
The researchers also took risk factors other than age into account when analyzing the data. These factors included things like past drug use, hypertension, and pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes and placenta previa (when the placenta lies abnormally low within the uterus).
They found that pregnant women over 40 were more likely to suffer from risk factors like chronic hypertension and complications like gestational diabetes. However, younger mothers were more likely to smoke or have a history of drug use, both factors that can increase the risk of preterm births.
Overall, the results showed that women aged 40 had the highest risk of experiencing a preterm birth, while women aged 30 to 34 had the lowest risk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the earlier a baby is born the higher the chances it’ll be born with a disability, or even risk death. In 2015, 17 percent of infant deaths were the result of premature births and low birth weights among newborns. What’s more, those born early can suffer from developmental issues and learning difficulties later in life.
A study conducted in 2013 also reported that babies born at 37 and 38 weeks often weren't as healthy as those delivered after 39-41 weeks. Early-term babies had a higher risk of conditions like hypoglycemia, and were more likely to require respiratory support and intravenous fluids.