Age can also complicate breastfeeding, says Kathy Leeper, M.D., I.B.C.L.C., medical director of Milkworks, a breastfeeding support center in Lincoln, Neb. In her experience, some older mothers have milk-supply issues, and this is particularly likely in women who needed medical assistance to become or stay pregnant.
Hurdling the Age Obstacle
Any pregnant woman over 35 is considered of "advanced maternal age," meaning the medical establishment considers her pregnancy at high risk for complications. But that doesn't mean an individual woman is destined to have a problem pregnancy.
"It's a label, not a diagnosis," Fleischman says, adding that older women may need a few extra prenatal exams.
If you're over 40, you can boost your odds of having a healthy pregnancy by making smart lifestyle choices:
• Be as healthy as you can before you conceive. See your doctor for apre-conception checkup; make sure all your existing health problems, such as diabetes or thyroid problems, are under control; and start taking prenatal vitamins with at least 400 micrograms of folic acid.
• Take extra-good care of yourself during pregnancy. "Eat well, exercise, gain a healthy amount of weight, see your doctor for prenatal visits, and keep your blood pressure and blood sugar under control," O'Brien recommends.
• Give yourself a break when you feel worn out. "Older women are more established in their routines, and they tend to want to continue doing everything they did prior to pregnancy," says Bonnie Berk, R.N., M.S., founder of Motherwell Maternity Fitness in Carlisle, Pa.
n Find a local lactation consultant before delivery so you'll be able to get breastfeeding help quickly.
• A Cesarean isn't your only option. Over-40 mothers are more likely to have a C-section because of their higher rates of multiple births and medical complications, but you shouldn't have one unless it's medically necessary.
•Build a support group of other new mothers, even if they're much younger. You may think you have nothing in common with women half your age, but once you start talking pregnancy, the age difference will matter less.