Women in their fifties are no more risk of pregnancy complications than women in their forties, Prof. Eyal Sheiner of BGU's Faculty of Health Sciences and Soroka University Medical Center says.
Speaking in mid-February at the Society for Maternal Fetal Medicine's (SMFM) 39th Annual Pregnancy Meeting in Las Vegas, Prof. Sheiner presented research showing that it is possible for women to give birth after the age of 50 without endangering the mother or the baby.
The study examined possible pregnancy complications for women over the age of 50 and the level of risk compared to younger mothers. The researchers found that while as recently as the 1980s giving birth at a later age seemed unfathomable, medical and technological advances – including extracellular fertilization and egg donation – have allowed the age at which a woman can give birth to gradually increase.
During the study, the researchers examined the outcomes of pregnancy among 68 women aged 50 and older who gave birth over the last few years. They found that about half gave birth through fertilization while some became pregnant naturally. These results were compared with the pregnancies and births of 558 women ages 45 to 50, 7,321 women who gave birth between the ages of 40 and 44, and 240,000 women who gave birth under the age of 40.
The research noted complications for expectant mothers such as gestational diabetes, pregnancy hypertension, premature births and caesarean section, and newborn complications such as low epigraph scores, indicating poor physical condition, distress during labor and even mortality.
The researchers concluded that while the risk of complications does in fact rise after a woman turns 40, there was no further escalation of complications at the age of 50.
“It seems that 50 is the new 40. There is no doubt that medical teams are going to see more and more births to women over the age of 50," says Prof. Sheiner, who also noted that it is still advisable to treat the pregnancies of women over the age of 40 as high-risk, and even more so, the pregnancies of women over 50.