Content warning: This post discusses stillbirth and baby loss
A new study suggests inducing first-time, over-35 mums at 40 weeks dramatically reduces stillbirth and newborn death rates – by a whopping 66 percent.
Having babies later
The study of 77 327 UK mothers, who were over 35 and gave birth between 2009 and 2014, found that induction of labor at 40 weeks was associated with a lower risk of in-hospital perinatal death.
As the average maternal age slowly climbs due to circumstance, career and cost of living, experts are pinpointing ways to ensure women – in this case women over the age of 35 – and their babies receive the best advice, care and outcomes.
In days gone by, most Australian women had their first child in their early 20s, but now the average maternal age is 30 and beyond.
“In the 1950s-1960s, almost half of all women who became mothers in Australia had their first child in their early 20s; in 2014, 46% of new mothers were aged 30 years”, research by Growing Up In Australia tells us.
Slightly higher risks
Unfortunately, having babies over the age of 35 has slightly increased risks. The study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Cambridge University further examines how these risks might be reduced.
Lead author, Hannah Knight, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, notes that while the risks to mums of this age are small, they shouldn’t be ignored.
“The number of first-time mothers over the age of 35 is rising. Although their risk of experiencing a stillbirth or neonatal death is relatively small, it’s still very important that these women receive the best advice on how to minimise the risks to themselves and their baby.”
Induce at 40 weeks
She explained that huge improvements in infant health can be realised, simply by inducing bang-on the due date at week 40, rather than waiting until the 41 or 42 week mark.
“This study represents the strongest evidence yet that moving the offer of induction forward to 40 weeks might reduce the risk of stillbirth in this specific age group.”
So while more research needs to be done into optimising pregnancy and birth for over-35s, the study authors concluded that “bringing forward the routine offer of induction of labour from the current recommendation of 41-42 weeks to 40 weeks of gestation in this group of women may reduce overall rates of perinatal death.”
If you’re struggling with the loss of a baby, please don’t go it alone. SANDS counsellors are available to support you and provide helpful advice about living with loss.