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Mothers Over 35 Have Fewer Babies Born With Congenital Birth Defects

February 4, 2014

We all know how youth obsessed our culture is today, worshipping the woman’s 20-year old body as if it were a religion to feel guilty about and retaliate against all in the same breath. This fascination with youth carries over into women’s reproductive health, as well. No surprise. Mothers who are over 35 when they have a baby are considered high risk simply because of their age. Never mind that the 18-year old pregnant mother may subsist on Diet Coke and Cheetohs while the 35-year old mother takes great care with her vitamins, prenatal visits and has the money to spend on her health.

Women over the age of 35 who get pregnant are seen as the minority, old mothers who appear on the verge of collapse, because after all, the best years to reproduce supposedly are in the twenties. (Damnit, Women, why won’t you fuck more when your body is hot? Or so say the predominantly male medical profession…but I digress…) So, what’s an old lady supposed to do if she is like the biblical Ruth wanting more kids, or maybe she can suddenly afford them? Apparently she shouldn’t worry so much about her advanced maternal age, because her risk of congenital disorders decreases with age:

The researchers found that older mothers — aged 35 and older — were 40 percent less likely than younger mothers to have a child with one or more of the birth defects known as major congenital malformations. The researchers reached this number after adjusting their statistics so they wouldn’t be thrown off by high or low numbers of women with certain risk factors.

The rate of heart defects were similar in both groups, the investigators found, but there were lower rates of brain, kidney and abdominal wall defects.

Say what? There may be some advantage to old ladies having kids? How? Well, not everyone agrees with that. Notice the gender of the commenting obstetricians and their viewpoints:

Study finding is specific to physical anomalies that are unrelated to chromosomes, researchers say.
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MONDAY, Feb. 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Women in their late 30s or 40s are often told that the odds of delivering a baby with a birth defect rises with age.

 

But a new study suggests that the opposite may be true when it comes to certain types of physical abnormalities.

 

The study found that women aged 35 and older face a lower risk of having children with birth defects known as major congenital malformations — physical defects that are not caused by abnormalities in chromosomes.

 

“This study may provide some reassurance to women deciding to delay childbearing and who in other areas — such as genetically and with their own personal medical health — face increasing pregnancy risks,” said Dr. Jill Rabin, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. She was not involved in the study.

 

The findings were to be presented Thursday in New Orleans at the annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

 

“As more women are choosing to delay childbearing, they are faced with many increased pregnancy risks,” study co-researcher Dr. Katherine Goetzinger, an assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, explained in a society news release. “Findings from this study may provide some reassurance for these women regarding the likelihood of having an anatomically normal child.”

 

It’s already known that older women face a higher risk than younger women of giving birth to babies with chromosomal abnormalities, which include conditions such as Down syndrome. But according to the study team, it’s been less clear if being an older mother boosts the risk of major congenital malformations.

 

Little information has been available regarding the association between age of the mother and the risk for birth defects that affect different parts of the body, such as the heart, brain, kidney, bones or digestive system, the authors noted.

 

In the new research, Goetzinger’s team studied the results of second-trimester ultrasounds for more than 76,000 women.

 

The researchers found that older mothers — aged 35 and older — were 40 percent less likely than younger mothers to have a child with one or more of the birth defects known as major congenital malformations. The researchers reached this number after adjusting their statistics so they wouldn’t be thrown off by high or low numbers of women with certain risk factors.

The rate of heart defects were similar in both groups, the investigators found, but there were lower rates of brain, kidney and abdominal wall defects.

Dr. Jacques Moritz is director of the division of gynecology in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. He called the study “weak” because “they are looking at mothers in the second trimester — many of the 35-year-olds [and older] will have had a miscarriage or not even gotten pregnant due to age.”

But, he added, “I do agree that if the older mother did get to the second-trimester ultrasound they have a better outcome.”

Dr. Joanne Stone, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, said the study “provides good news for women who are considered of ‘advanced maternal age’ who are pregnant.”

Stone pointed out that “while the cause of this decrease [in certain birth defects] is not known, it certainly is encouraging news for women who delay childbearing until a little later in life.”

Hmm, the male OB said he didn’t believe it, that women that old probably couldn’t even get pregnant. (Maybe we are all washed up after 30?) The female physician said the news about the risk of lowered defects is “good news.” Maybe the increased risk of miscarriage is the increased knowledge the body has of which pregnancies are healthy and which are not. Maybe it’s a form of maternal wisdom, as opposed to a lucky break. Whatever the reason, it’s welcome news for all women who are frequently hounded simply for their age in a culture that only values our youth.

 

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