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First Pregnancy Risks for Women 35 & Over

While the birth rate for women 30 and younger has seen a steady decline in the past few decades, the rate for women over that age has risen. With an increasing number of women 35 and older becoming first-time mothers, understanding the risks that this age group faces is key to maximizing the chances of having successful pregnancies.

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In the Beginning

Seeing the little pink plus sign can bring joy to the first-time mother who has been waiting until her mid-30s to start her family. Being 35 or older can affect your chances of carrying the baby to term. Although miscariages happen in 10 to 15 percent of all pregnancies, the March of Dimes notes that the risk runs higher for women who are over 35 years old. While there's often no definitive cause for a miscarriage, possible reasons include chromosome abnormalities, diabetes, thyroid disease, hormone problems and infections, according to the March of Dimes

Blood Pressure on the Rise

Even if you've been a steady 120/80 your entire adult life, a first pregnancy over the age of 35 may increase the likelihood that you'll develop pregnancy-related hypertension or pre-eclampsia, according to Dr. Joseph C. Canterino in "The Female Patient." The Preeclampsia Foundation notes that pre-eclampsia is a serious pregnancy condition that includes protein in the urine, high blood pressure and swelling. Occurring in anywhere from 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies, pre-eclampsia may happen anytime after 20 weeks gestation. While the symptoms -- according to the Preeclampsia Foundation -- typically include sudden swelling, changes in vision and headaches, some women have few or no signs of the condition.

Watch Your Sugar

Another risk for first-time mom's over age 35 is gestational diabetes, notes Canterino. Gestational diabetes only occurs in pregnant women. This condition affects 18 percent of all pregnancies and typically happens later in pregnancy. The American Diabetes Association notes that untreated, or uncontrolled gestational diabetes, may result in a baby who is overweight at birth or cause breathing problems.

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At Birth

Older first-time moms have a higher likelihood of going into premature labor, having a cesarean section or having a stillbirth, according to the March of Dimes. Additionally, women in the 30 and older age bracket have an increased risk of having a low birth weight baby in comparison to first-timers who are in their 20s, notes Canterino.

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