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Birth injury » Elderly primigravida


Any woman over the age of 35 expecting her first child will be known as an elderly primigravida (literally; older first time mother). In recent years it has often been felt by health professionals and the media alike that women over the age of 35 are at greater risk of suffering birth injury and it has been widely accepted that extra tests and interventions have been used to try to reduce the risks.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in 1986 only 28% of births in England and Wales were to women over the age of 30. Two decades later that figure rose to 48%, with the greatest percentage increase in births in any one age group occurring in the 35 to 39 year group.

Figures also show that births to women over the age of 40 are increasing; from 1.1% in 1986 to 3.5% in 2006.

It is true that the longer a woman waits to have her first baby, the greater the likelihood that she may have developed a medical condition that could affect child bearing and birth such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Research has shown that the frequency of child birth complications in elderly primigravidae is increased for conditions such as pregnancy induced gestational diabetes, low lying placenta and premature birth (Joseph at al 2005: Jolly et al 2000).

However, even a fit and healthy pregnant woman over the age of 35 will be subjected to more antenatal tests and ultrasound scans than a younger woman, and more women of this age undergo amniocentesis (foetal test for Downs Syndrome) (Bell et al 2001).

Yet, some health professionals argue that the woman over 35 is often better educated in terms of fitness and well being, often nutritionally healthier and can more readily tolerate the symptoms of pregnancy.

A woman over the age of 35 is statistically more likely to have intervention during labour such as an epidural or assisted delivery: forceps or ventouse (Sizer et al 2000). Virtually all studies agree that a higher maternal age is likely to increase the likelihood of caesarean section delivery.

However, the increase of caesarean delivery does not appear to be connected with any proven birth problem. There is great speculation that this type of intervention is unnecessary but occurs because of the greater perceived risk in elderly primigravida births. Isolated research has observed a higher risk of foetal distress in older mothers and prolonged second stage labour (Main et al 2000) and this may begin to explain why caesarean deliveries are more common in older women.

A president of the National Childbirth Trust commented, after reported research into increased birth intervention, that doctors appeared to make assumptions that all older women would need medical intervention.

She added, This could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. One should always start from the premise that pregnancy is an entirely normal physiology.

HappyClaim and birth injury compensation

Any medical intervention carries a risk of injury, none more so than birth intervention. If you feel that intervention in your labour has been carried out negligently and has caused you or your baby birth injury, you may be able to make a birth injury compensation claim.

We understand the pain and distress of birth injury claims; our medical negligence solicitors are amongst the most experienced in the country and are governed by the regulations of the Law Society.

Whilst the complexities of birth injury medical negligence claims make it impossible to say that you will not be charged any legal fees, we assure you that we will advise you of any charges before you commit to them and in a won case we will always reimburse you.

If you wish to discuss a birth injury compensation claim, please call our confidential helpline now on 01582 437070 or request a more convenient time when we can call you back. Alternatively, fill in the online claim form and we will look into your compensation claim before we call you to discuss it further. Above all, at HappyClaim we are here to help.