Gwyneth Paltrow’s Miscarriage: What Moms Over 40 Need to Know

Monday, 18 Mar 2013 04:00 PM

By Charlotte Libov

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Movie star Gwyneth Paltrow’s disclosure that she “nearly died” while suffering a miscarriage highlights the risks of having a baby after age 40, according to obstetricians.

“The chance of having a miscarriage does increase significantly as you get older,” Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale University Medical School, tells Newsmax Health.

Paltrow, mother of daughter Apple, 8, and son Moses, 6, with her husband, Chris Martin, of the band “Coldplay,” revealed in an interview published this week that she had tried for a third child, but that the pregnancy ended in miscarriage, leaving her wondering if she had “missed the window” to add to her family after turning 40.

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“I had a really bad experience with my third (pregnancy). It didn’t work out and I nearly died,” Paltrow said.

The vast majority of miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities that begin at the time of conception, said Dr. Minkin. “They are babies that would not have been viable, so even if you stop the miscarriage, it is something that you probably might not want to do,” she said.

“The possibility of genetic abnormalities increases as a woman ages, which is why older prospective mothers have a lot of genetic tests done.”

In particular, growing older greatly raises the possibility of Down’s syndrome, a condition that occurs during the process of cell division, when the fetus is formed. “The chance of a young woman having a baby with Down’s syndrome is 1 in 800, but it rises to 1 in 100 when she’s 40, and 1 in 25 when she’s 44,” Dr. Minkin said.

It is estimated that 15-20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage. “It’s a sad event, but it’s very common,” she said.

Gwyneth Paltrow did not provide details about how her miscarriage threatened her life, but they can result in a heavy loss of blood that can be very serious, especially if the woman is anemic, a medical problem with which Paltrow has said she has struggled.

The good news is that women who have had multiple miscarriages can go on to have a successful pregnancy. “Even if a woman has miscarried three times, she has a 75 percent chance of having a successful pregnancy,” Dr. Minkin said.

And, although conventional thought has been to wait a year to try for a baby after a miscarriage, Dr. Minkin says that just waiting through a few menstrual periods, “to give the body a chance to settle down,” may suffice.

However, a miscarriage can be psychologically traumatic, making it important to heal emotionally before becoming pregnant again, she said.

Dr. Minkin makes the following recommendations for older women who are pregnant or contemplating motherhood:

• Take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily, which reduces the risk of some developmental defects, like spinal bifida.

• Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoke can damage the development of the placenta, from which the fetus derives its nutrients.

• Limit alcoholic beverages, although an occasional single glass of wine may be OK.

• Limit coffee to two cups of a day. (A recent study found a slightly increased miscarriage risk for women who drink three or more cups of coffee daily, although that research is still preliminary).

• Achieve a healthy weight before becoming pregnant and eat nutritiously.

Above all, the one thing that women should not do after they miscarry is blame themselves, Dr. Minkin said. “Women say, ‘Oh I shouldn’t have had that argument,’ or ‘I shouldn’t have gone to this doctor and not that doctor.’ These are normal thoughts, but usually the events that set the miscarriage in place occurred at the time of conception and are no one’s fault.”

SPECIAL: These 4 Things Happen Right Before a Heart Attack — Read More.


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