Date of Award

Winter 1-9-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Richard Rothenberg, MD, MPH

Second Advisor

Bruce Perry, MD, MPH


Introduction: The past decade has seen a significant shift in the demographics of childbearing in the United States. The average age of women at first birth has steadily increased over the last four decades, with the birth rate for women aged 40-44 more than doubling from 1990 to 2012. The aim of this study was to evaluate the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes with increasing maternal age and paternal age using national health statistics data.

Methods: The study population included 3 495 710 live births among women 15-54+ years of age from the 2012 Natality dataset. Outcomes were modeled for both maternal and paternal 5-year age groups using logistic regression analysis to calculate adjusted and unadjusted odds ratios (AORs, ORs) with 95% confidence intervals. Analysis was performed to examine the association between maternal and paternal age across seven different adverse outcomes, including low birthweight, low Apgar score, early term pregnancies, abnormal newborn conditions and presence of congenital anomalies.

Results: The risks for most outcomes paralleled with advanced maternal age and paternal age. Logistic regression models demonstrated that maternal age groups 40-44, 45-49 and 50-54+ were at highest risk for an adverse pregnancy outcome compared to the 30-34 year old reference group. Abnormal newborn conditions including assisted ventilation, NICU admission and use of antibiotics were significant for all age groups 40 and older. Low Apgar score, low birthweight and early term pregnancies were significantly higher among mothers as well as fathers with advanced age.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that advanced maternal age is a risk factor for a variety of adverse pregnancy outcomes. Women aged 35-39 have a similar risk of an adverse outcome as their younger counterparts. This suggests that perhaps we should begin assessing high-risk pregnancies as starting at an older age versus the de facto standard of 35.