You are here: grownupsmag.comHealth35 and…Geriatric?

35 and…Geriatric?

35 and…Geriatric? - Grown Ups Magazine - Worried about trying to conceive after age 35? We have the lowdown on what to expect and what to do about it.
Worried about trying to conceive after age 35? We have the lowdown on what to expect and what to do about it.

Geriatric Pregnancy

Women over the age of 35 who become pregnant are christened with the not-so-charming recognition of having a “geriatric pregnancy.” Yes, geriatric, as in old. For the mothers-to-be who may be offended by such a dubious distinction, they can opt for the more serene moniker as a “mother of advanced age.” Or there’s always the historical descriptor of “elderly mother.” Regardless of which term is least offensive, expectant women who are 35 or older are in their own special group.

Historically, women were unable to delay pregnancy. Throughout the 1970s (ironically the years during which the current crop of geriatric mothers were born), societal roles meant that most women were homemakers and child bearers. This trend changed as women entered the workforce and found fulfilling careers. Medical advances like improved access to birth control and the increased use of fertility treatments allowed women to extend the childbearing years even more.

That’s not to say that women’s bodies have adapted to such social progress. A 30-year-old woman has a 20% chance of becoming pregnant each month as compared to the 5% chance a 40-year-old woman has. And while prenatal care has improved, older mothers face more pregnancy-associated risks than younger mothers. A woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have in her lifetime, meaning that the eggs age along with the woman. An older egg, that is an egg that may be fertilized after age 35, is more likely to have age-associated problems like chromosomal defects. For example, the risk of an older mother carrying a child with Down syndrome is 1 in 365. Compare that with the risk of 1 in 1,600 associated with younger mothers and the picture becomes clear. Older mothers may have more wisdom at their disposal, but younger mothers have better odds.

Women over the age of 35 are more likely to suffer miscarriages, bear children with chromosomal abnormalities, and often have underlying conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure that can negatively affect pregnancy. But while pregnancies in women over age 35 do carry some increased risks, they have become socially acceptable. Close to 20% of pregnancies are among women who fall in this category. While more screenings and closer monitoring are usually necessary to reduce complications, proper prenatal care, exercise, and appropriate nutrition can go a long way in promoting a healthy pregnancy for women of any age.

About the author

Grown Ups

Grown Ups

Grown Ups Magazine is a free resource for parents, teachers, extended family, or anyone who lives or works with kids. Enjoy digital issues of Grown Ups on your iPad, iPhone, or at

  • Lacey

    This discussion and article is junk and completely false.. These stats where taken from the 1820s from women in Wales and France and historically have no impact on modern day pregnancies.. My first birth was at 32 and I just had my 5th baby at almost 39. I also hope to have another. I’ve had easy births at home with very healthy babies.. Write an article that is true.. Not this garbage that scares women in their 30’s to not have babies.

    • Carissa Pelletier

      Hi, Lacey, and thank you for your opinion and congrats on your five little ones! If you read the article, we hope you’ll see that it is a fact-based, informational article with no intent to scare women from becoming pregnant. In fact, it’s teasing the healthcare industry for considering these young moms “geriatric” when they are far from it.

    • JLYNN

      Thankyou because I am 35 getting married in June and we are wanting a child together. He has 5 girls and I have 3 boys but we want at least one together.. I feel like it doesn’t matter the age because it is in God’s hands only. We have gotten negative remarks from family on my age and how many children we already have…. It has taken us this long to be happy so if God graces us with another child that is both of ours I will be elated… I know that everything will be fine because it’s in God’s hands!

  • kellmell

    I am a nurse and have never heard the term “geriatric pregnancy” in all of my 20 years of nursing. However, I had my 3rd child at 42 and hear this term and other offensive terms quite often on the internet on blogs such as this one. In my opinion, this term was coined to mock women who choose to have babies later in life by people who don’t understand what it is like to make this kind of choice. Also, don’t read too heavily in statistics because that is all that they are, statistics.

Read More