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Good News for Older Moms

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If you've had the audacity to be older and pregnant, then you know what it's like to be told to keep expectations low, real low. Among the warnings: The pregnancy won't last, the chromosomes are too numerous and brace yourself for all kinds of physical abnormalities. Congrats!

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Not so fast, fetal doomsayers. A new study concludes that older moms—those pregnant in their late 30s and early 40s, have a lower chance of giving birth to a baby with physical deformities. (Not that there's anything wrong with physical deformities!)

In a major study of 76,000 second-trimester ultrasounds, researchers found older moms 40 percent less likely than women in their 20s and early 30s to be carrying a fetus with major congenital malformations—physical defects that are not caused by abnormalities in chromosomes.

Many of the older women had miscarriages or didn't get pregnant in the first place.

The team adjusted for various risk factors among the women. The group of women up to 35 years old, and those 35 years to 40 years old, had the same risk factor of carrying a fetus with heart defects. The older moms had the advantage over younger moms in terms of risk for fetuses with brain, kidney and abdominal wall defects.

Critics of the study say it's weak, because it focuses on women whose pregnancies had advanced to the second trimester. Many of the older women, they said, had miscarriages or didn't get pregnant in the first place (annnnnd, circle back to first paragraph).

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The as-yet unpublished findings of the study were presented in February at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine in New Orleans.

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