What Older Expectant Moms Can Expect

Older first time moms react to C sections a little better than younger first time moms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) More women are waiting to have children until they are in their 30s. However, it's not clear if the experience of giving birth differs among older and younger pregnant women.

A group of researchers in Norway decided to find out by looking at a large group of first-time moms. They found that the experience of childbirth is not much different for older or younger first-time mothers overall.

The mothers aged 32 and older worried a tiny bit more than younger mothers, but they also handled cesarean sections a bit better than the younger women.  

"Attend all prenatal visits."

The study, led by Vigdis Aasheim, a PhD student in the Department of Women's and Children's Health at the Karolinska Institutet in Norway, compared the experience of giving birth between women aged 32 and older and women aged 25 to 31.

The researchers gathered data from 30,065 women who were in the second trimester of pregnancy with their first child between 1999 and 2008.

The women completed three questionnaires. One was completed at 17 weeks of pregnancy, another at 30 weeks of pregnancy and a third at six months after giving birth.

In addition, the researchers gathered medical data from the National Birth Register.

The researchers found that women aged 32 and older tended to worry a little more about their upcoming birth, but only by a small amount. The older women were about 13 percent more likely to express worry about the birth than the women aged 25 to 31.

The group of older women were also slightly more likely (9 percent) to say that the experience of childbirth was "worse than expected."

However, the reason for these differences appeared to be related to the way the women gave birth to their babies.

When the researchers grouped the women according to the method of delivery (C-section and different types of vaginal birth), only the older women who had a "spontaneous vaginal delivery" were more likely than the younger women to say the birth experience was "worse than expected."

A spontaneous vaginal delivery is a standard vaginal birth without any induction or use of medications, including no pain relief medications. A C-section is the surgical removal of the baby.

Among women who had C-sections, the older women were actually more likely to say the experience was "better than expected."

Women aged 32 and older who had an emergency C-section were 38 percent more likely than the younger women to say the experience was better than expected. Those older women who had an elective C-section were 36 percent more likely than the younger group to say the experience was better than expected.

The researchers concluded that women who did not have children until age 32 or later had only slightly different experiences giving birth than younger women had.

"Even if women who are delivered by emergency cesarean section or instrumental vaginal delivery have a much more negative experience than after a spontaneous vaginal birth, older women seem to be better prepared to manage this experience than younger women," the researchers wrote.

The study was published February 27 in the journal BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. The research was funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Health, the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, the National Institutes of Health and the Swedish Research Council at the Karolinska Institutet. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 3, 2013
Last Updated:
April 11, 2013