Late motherhood exposes women to greater risks

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Sydney, Jan 9 (UNI) Even as Nicole Kidman joined the swelling ranks of women who have their first baby after the age of 40, women who become pregnant later in life have a much greater risk of miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and stillbirths.

Older women are also more likely to have induced labour, epidural anaesthesia, forceps or vacuum deliveries, and caesarean sections. They have a one in 100 chance of having a child with chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome.

A fertility specialist with IVF Australia, Michael Chapman, said women aged 40 to 45 had a one in four chance of miscarrying.

''Age and the miscarriage rate are linked because the older a woman gets, the older her eggs get. They become more fragile with age and have abnormalities, which can lead to miscarriage or disorders such as Down syndrome,'' he was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald as saying.

He said pregnant women in their 30s and 40s had a greater risk of hypertension and gestational diabetes, which often required intervention during labour. One study showed that first-time mothers older than 40 were 14 times more likely to have a caesarean than those under 30.

''Most obstetricians encourage older women to have a caesarean section because their muscles are weaker and their tissues are less elastic,'' Dr Chapman said.

Secretary of the NSW Midwives Association Hannah Dahlen argued women should not be deterred.

''Older mothers are more likely to be educated and financially secure, more settled in themselves and more prepared to make the sacrifices required to be a mother,'' she said.

''They are better able to negotiate care for their child, their children often do better in school, and it has also been shown in some studies that women who have babies in their 40s live longer,'' she added.

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