Advanced Maternal Age (AMA)

Last Updated: June 8, 2019

Definition - What does Advanced Maternal Age (AMA) mean?

Advanced maternal age (AMA) refers to a pregnancy where the mother is over the age of 35. The age of the mother is significant because the probability of complications including infertility, miscarriage, multiple births, and certain fetal and maternal health complications increases with maternal age. These risks are considered substantially higher starting after the age of 35 and continue to increase until menopause.

FertilitySmarts explains Advanced Maternal Age (AMA)

The risks from advanced maternal age arise from a combination of factors. For one, women are born with a finite number of eggs; the female body does not produce new eggs, but only brings them to maturity through hormonal processes. The risk of chromosomal and other problems with eggs increases as the eggs age. A woman's hormonal cycles also change with age, which may lead to less reliable ovulation, more difficulty with fertilization and implantation, and more risks to pregnancy and delivery.

It may be more difficult for women over 35 to become pregnant. Eggs may not be released as regularly, or those that do may have problems that prevent them from giving rise to a healthy pregnancy. Infertility is more common with advanced maternal age, and medical assistance to conceive may be required if attempts at natural conception are unsuccessful.

Because eggs are not released as regularly later in the reproductive years, more than one egg may be released at once. That means that the chances of multiple births - most commonly twins or triplets - increases. Use of fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization also increases the chance of multiple births.

Maternal health complications such as gestational diabetes and high blood pressure are higher for older women. Just as the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and other conditions increase with age—the risk that these could be caused by pregnancy also increases.

Fetal health complications such as low birth weight, premature delivery, chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome are higher with advanced maternal age. Though many healthy babies are born to women over 35 each year, the statistical odds of these conditions occurring increases along with maternal age.

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