-- Randy Dotinga
MONDAY, Feb. 3, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Women in their late 30s
or 40s are often told that the odds of delivering a baby with a
birth defect rises with age.
But a new study suggests that the opposite may be true when it
comes to certain types of physical abnormalities.
The study found that women aged 35 and older face a
lowerrisk of having children with birth defects known as
major congenital malformations -- physical defects that are not
caused by abnormalities in chromosomes.
"This study may provide some reassurance to women deciding to delay childbearing and who in other areas -- such as genetically and with their own personal medical health -- face increasing pregnancy risks," said Dr. Jill Rabin, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y. She was not involved in the study.
The findings were to be presented Thursday in New Orleans at the
annual meeting of the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
"As more women are choosing to delay childbearing, they are faced with many increased pregnancy risks," study co-researcher Dr. Katherine Goetzinger, an assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, explained in a society news release. "Findings from this study may provide some reassurance for these women regarding the likelihood of having an anatomically normal child."
It's already known that older women face a higher risk than
younger women of giving birth to babies with chromosomal
abnormalities, which include conditions such as Down syndrome. But
according to the study team, it's been less clear if being an older
mother boosts the risk of major congenital malformations.
Little information has been available regarding the association
between age of the mother and the risk for birth defects that
affect different parts of the body, such as the heart, brain,
kidney, bones or digestive system, the authors noted.
In the new research, Goetzinger's team studied the results of
second-trimester ultrasounds for more than 76,000 women.
The researchers found that older mothers -- aged 35 and older --
were 40 percent less likely than younger mothers to have a child
with one or more of the birth defects known as major congenital
malformations. The researchers reached this number after adjusting
their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by high or low
numbers of women with certain risk factors.
The rate of heart defects were similar in both groups, the
investigators found, but there were lower rates of brain, kidney
and abdominal wall defects.
Two other obstetrics experts had mixed views on the
Dr. Jacques Moritz is director of the division of gynecology in
the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Mount Sinai St.
Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. He called the study
"weak" because "they are looking at mothers in the second trimester
-- many of the 35-year-olds [and older] will have had a miscarriage
or not even gotten pregnant due to age."
But, he added, "I do agree that if the older mother did get to
the second-trimester ultrasound they have a better outcome."
Dr. Joanne Stone, director of maternal-fetal medicine at Mount
Sinai Hospital in New York City, said the study "provides good news
for women who are considered of 'advanced maternal age' who are
Stone pointed out that "while the cause of this decrease [in
certain birth defects] is not known, it certainly is encouraging
news for women who delay childbearing until a little later in
Experts note that findings presented at medical meetings are
typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed
For more information on birth defects, head to the
March of Dimes.
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