A geriatric pregnancy is any pregnancy that happens over the age of 35. Healthy women over 35 are completely capable of delivering healthy babies, but it is important to understand that there is an increase in risks as mothers get older. Your doctor may suggest additional prenatal genetic counseling and tests to rule out any potential concerns and will be able to help you determine which type of testing, if any, is best for you and your growing family.
What Is Genetic Testing?
Genetic testing consists of tests that can provide information concerning your baby’s health while still in the womb. These tests can help detect any risk of abnormalities, as well as provide important information before the baby is born. Genetic tests can:
- Provide peace of mind
- Help parents learn and prepare if a problem is found
- Use discovered information to make decisions about the best care
Prenatal genetic counseling is available for expectant parents to help unravel the results they receive. It is important to note that these tests aren’t perfect. Even if an abnormality is detected, it doesn’t mean your child will have that issue. Your doctor can help you best understand your results and what they mean for you.
Common Genetic Testing for Geriatric Pregnancies
Becoming a parent over the age of 35 is an important decision to make. There are additional risk factors, especially for women who have other health issues. Genetic testing can help before pregnancy to allow you to be better informed, or during pregnancy to monitor the development of your baby. There are several different tests your doctor may suggest, including:
- An ultrasound. This is standard for expecting mothers of all ages. It is a safe test that uses high-frequency waves to produce an image of the baby. This can be used to monitor heartbeat, rate of growth, gender, and signs of possible defects such as a cleft lip, spina bifida, heart defects, and down syndrome.
- First-trimester screening. This is done between weeks 11-14 of pregnancy and involves a blood test and ultrasound. The results look for issues in the baby’s chromosomes.
- Quad marker screen. This test is performed at the 15-20-week mark. It measures specific substances in the blood to look for potential brain or spinal cord issues. It is important to understand this test indicates the risk level and is not an actual diagnosis.
- This test is used to make a diagnosis, and often involves genetic counseling to ensure you understand any risks involved in having the test done, and what the results could indicate. This procedure involves a needle being inserted through the abdomen, guided by ultrasound images. The needle removes a small amount of amniotic fluid to check the baby’s chromosomes and test for genetic diseases such as down syndrome, sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and muscular dystrophy.
- Chorionic villus sampling (CVS). This is an alternative genetic test to amniocentesis that can be performed earlier in pregnancy. It involves using a needle to collect a small sample of cells from the placenta.
Work With Your Doctor
Geriatric pregnancies can result in the birth of a perfectly healthy baby. For women over 35, different genetic tests can offer peace of mind concerning the baby’s health, as well as provide the ability to learn and prepare for any potential abnormalities. Genetic counseling can help you better understand the details of each test and why a test may be a good option for you. Your doctor will analyze your potential risk factors to help guide you toward an informed decision.
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