Objective: to examine the evidence in relation to very advanced maternal age (≥45 years) and maternal and perinatal outcomes in high-income countries.
Background: this review was conducted against a background of increasing fertility options for women aged ≥=45 years and rising birth rates among this group of women.
Methods: established health databases including SCOPUS, MEDLINE, CINAHL, EMBASE and Maternity and Infant Care were searched for journal papers, published 2001-2011, that examined very advanced maternal age (VAMA) and maternal and perinatal outcomes. Further searches were based on references found in located articles. Keywords included a search term for maternal age ≥45 years (very advanced maternal age, pregnancy aged 45 years and older) and a search term for maternal complications (caesarian section, hypertension, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes) and/or adverse perinatal outcome (preterm birth, low birth weight, small for gestational age, stillbirth, perinatal death). Of 164 retrieved publications, 10 met inclusion criteria.
Data extraction: data were extracted and organised under the following headings: maternal age ≥45 years; maternal characteristics such as parity and use of artificial reproductive technology (ART); and pre-existing maternal conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension. Additional headings included: gestational conditions, such as pre-eclampsia and gestational diabetes (GDM); and perinatal outcomes, including fetal/infant demise; gestational age and weight. Study quality was assessed by using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (CASP) guidelines.
Findings: this review produced three main findings: (1) increased rates of stillbirth, perinatal death, preterm birth and low birth weight among women ≥45 years; (2) increased rates of pre-existing hypertension and pregnancy complications such as GDM, gestational hypertension (GH), pre-eclampsia and interventions such as caesarian section; and (3) a trend of favourable outcomes, even at extremely advanced maternal age (50-65 years), for healthy women who had been screened to exclude pre-existing disease.
Key conclusions: although there is strong evidence of an association between very advanced maternal age and adverse maternal and perinatal outcomes, the absolute rate of stillbirth/perinatal death remains low, at less than 10 per 1000 births in most high-income countries. Therefore, although women in this age group encounter greater pregnancy risk, most will achieve a successful pregnancy outcome. Best outcomes appear to be linked to pre-existing maternal health, and pregnancy care at tertiary centres may also contribute. This information should be used to counsel women aged ≥45 years who are contemplating pregnancy.
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