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Screenings Advised for Pregnant Women Over the Age of 35

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Women who become pregnant after the age of 35 are more at risk of complications that can impact the health of their unborn child than women who become pregnant earlier in life. For this reason, women in this older group should take special care by undergoing regular screening as recommended by their doctor, from their first month of pregnancy, until the third trimester, just prior to the birth.
  • The chances of a premature birth increases in line with an increase in the expectant mother’s age. Screening for premature birth risk is carried out with an ultrasound scan to measure transvaginal cervical length, which can help to reduce the chance of a premature birth before 34 weeks by up to 50% (from Samitivej Sukhumvit Hospital statistics 2017-2018).

 

Pregnant Women Over 35

Placing your pregnancy under the care of a medical facility can help to reduce the risks placed on both mother and infant. Doctors will begin with a urine test to confirm the age of the pregnancy, before conducting a blood test and internal examination of the female genitalia to check for the presence of any disorders, such as cervical cancer, AIDs, STDs, liver inflammation and Thalassemia. Ultrasound scan will also be performed to confirm the gestational age of pregnancy.

As the expectant mother’s age increases, so do the risks to her and her unborn child. These include a heightened risk of pregnancy complications, a greater risk of premature birth and a higher chance of the baby being born with Down syndrome.

Therefore, to ensure the best chance of protection against any such problems, women who become pregnant after the age of 35 should receive special care and attend regular appointments with their physician, from the first month of the pregnancy right up until the third trimester, just prior to the birth.

Recommended screenings for pregnant women over the age of 35

1. Chromosome screening

This can be done with a blood test taken from the mother to screen for chromosomal abnormalities. The procedure does not require an amniocentesis. However, if a high risk is identified, a subsequent amniocentesis may be necessary. click here to find out more

2. Screening for diabetes and high blood pressure

Studies have found that women who become pregnant after the age of 35 are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes during their pregnancy than those who become pregnant earlier in life. Doctors are likely to screen blood glucose levels during the second half of pregnancy, especially in women who are pregnant later in life, or in those who gain weight particularly quickly or are overweight. Such screening can also help doctors identify the presence of hepatitis B and C, including STDs, both of which can be dangerous to the health of the unborn child. Click here to find out more

3. Screening for abnormalities with an ultrasound scan

A basic form of screening that usually takes place during the 5th month of pregnancy, an ultrasound scan, can provide an accurate picture of the fetus’s structural development, including identification of any abnormalities present anywhere from the head down to the toes, as well as in the cardiovascular system. The scan must be carried out by an obstetrician who specializes in Maternal Fetal Medicine, and who has high levels of training and experience in their field, particularly for fetal echo examination. In cases where an abnormality is identified, the team of doctors will make careful preparations for post-natal care, although some conditions can be treated while the baby is still in the womb. Click here to find out more

4. Premature birth risk screening

The rates of premature births increase in line with any increase in the expectant mother’s age due to the ageing process negatively impacting the placenta. Age is also a factor in the mother’s waters breaking prematurely or the infant being born underweight. Screening for premature birth risk can be done with an ultrasound to take a transvaginal cervical length measurement, which can help to reduce the chance of a premature birth by up to 50%. Click here to find out more

5. Preeclampsia screening

This involves a urine test during the pregnancy to analyze the proteins present, as these are key indicators of preeclampsia. The aforementioned condition is extremely dangerous to both mother and child and, if the disorder is not identified or is left untreated, it could become fatal to the mother or child. Currently, preeclampsia screening can take place before the 11th-13th week and 6th day of a pregnancy, thereby helping to reduce the risk of the condition developing by up to 90%, at the same time offering protection against the condition in 70% of cases. Click here to find out more

It is commonly known that becoming pregnant after the age of 35 increases the risk of complications affecting both mother and child, including developmental issues. Hence, in addition to making dietary adjustments and exercising regularly, expectant mothers, who become pregnant after the age of 35, should take special care by undergoing additional screening techniques apart from the standard screenings. Being aware of any irregularities from the outset allows parents to make the preparations necessary to deal with any eventuality that may arise.


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Preeclampsia Risk Screening Program


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Assoc. Prof. Boonsri Chanrachakul, M.D. Summary: Obstetrics And Gynaecology Maternal And Fetal Medicine