Age 30 New High Risk Number for First-Time Mothers

Belly of Pregnant Mom Wearing Blue PantsAge 35 has long been considered the magic number for safely having babies. However, a new study by researchers from the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden suggests that the “risk zone” for pregnancy begins even younger, at age 30.

As published in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, the study discovered that pregnancy and birth complications started at age 30 rather than the conventional age 35.

Noting that women in the wealthiest countries around the world have increasingly been giving birth at later ages — which correlates to an increased risk of preterm birth, hindered growth, and stillbirth — the researchers in the present study used data on nearly one million women between 1990 and 2010 from the Swedish and Norwegian medical birth registers.

The researchers divided the women into four age groups:

  • 25- to 29-years-old
  • 30- to 34-years-old
  • 35- to 39-years-old
  • 40-years-old and older

Although women between the ages of 30 and 34 have been traditionally been considered to fall within the pregnancy risk zone, the results of this study indicate otherwise.

Compared with the women in the 25 to 29 age group, first-time mothers between the ages of 30 and 34 had a higher risk of giving birth prematurely (defined as giving birth between weeks 22 and 31) had a higher risk of having a stillbirth.

Despite adjusting odds ratios of certain categories including very preterm birth, moderately preterm birth, small for gestational age, low Apgar score, fetal death, and neonatal death, the researchers note that women as young as 30 are at an increased risk for pregnancy and birth complications.

State the authors in the abstract of the article, “For the individual woman, the absolute risk for each of the outcomes was small, but for society, it may be significant as a result of the large number of women who give birth after the age of 30 years.”

States Ulla Waldenström, professor at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Karolinska Institutet, “We were surprised that the risk for certain outcomes increased at such a relatively early age.”

Unsurprisingly, other risk factors such as smoking or being overweight or obese “significantly increased” the risk of experiencing serious pregnancy complications.

Prof. Waldenström notes that, although the increased risk of premature birth and stillbirth is relatively small for an individual women, the social implications are more significant:

“For women individually, the risk is small, but for society at large there will be a significant number of ‘unnecessary’ complications with so many women having children just after 30. It would therefore be advisable to inform both women and men, even at schools, of how important age is to childbirth.”

When asked by Medical News Today about advice for women over the age of 30 who are considering getting pregnant for the first time, Prof. Waldenström stated:

“The best advice is to avoid smoking and overweight/obesity, if that is possible. I would also point at the very low risk for the individual woman. The prevalence of very preterm birth increased from 6/1000 women in a low-risk group aged 25-29 years to 10/1000 at age 30-34, and the corresponding figures for stillbirths were from 2/1000 to 4/1000.”

The researchers now plan to study the effects of age on giving birth to a second or third child using dated from a registry based on 2.2 million women.


Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes Related to Advanced Maternal Age Compared With Smoking and Being Overweight:
First-time Mothers as Young as 30-years-old in ‘Risk Zone’:

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