Meghan Markle Will Probably Have to Change Her Diet During Pregnancy—Here's Why
All eyes are on Prince Harry and Meghan Markle after the pair announced they're expecting their first child earlier this week. According to official royal sources, Markle is more than 12 weeks pregnant and is feeling healthier than ever, but some in the health industry hold concern that Markle's pregnancy—and any pregnancies that occur after a woman turns 35 years old—could be at a higher risk for complications.
For some, the term “geriatric pregnancy” holds a negative connotation, but the Duchess of Sussex has suddenly become the face of what many women are more commonly experiencing here in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published research illustrating that more women are choosing to wait until after age 35 to conceive—which may lead you to wonder, "What's the big deal, anyway?" The reason that the term "geriatric" even exists is due to the fact that there's a notable increase of risk in complications when women choose to give birth after the age of 35.
Like Markle, women over the age of 35 face the possibility of complications for both mother and child—the biggest being an increased chance of miscarriage, due to a higher probability of an abnormal embryo, which can also lead to complications for the child, including Down syndrome. A scholarly review of over 15 international studies on geriatric pregnancies reveals that the most serious health risks associated with having a child after the age of 35 are actually diet-related, including hypertension and gestational diabetes.
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Gestational hypertension isn't a direct result of what women eat during these kinds of pregnancies, but the American Pregnancy Association describes the condition as uncontrollable high blood pressure occuring during pregnancy—which means that foods linked to cholesterol and inflammation will likely be off the table for Markle. Gestational hypertension can commonly result in a condition known as preeclampsia, which is often associated with more serious health implications such as liver and kidney failure.
But experts at the American Diabetes Association also point out that women like Markle have a higher risk of contracting gestational diabetes. Because of this, women over the age of 35 will have to undergo glucose challenge tests for the condition early on—and Markle is no exception.
She'll also have to closely watch her blood pressure almost every day, and her urine will be regularly monitored for excessive protein to detect gestational hypertension as early as possible.
We know that the Duchess of Sussex has previously shared her love of the occasional sweet treat, but she’ll likely have to cut back on extra sugar and opt for foods that are beneficial for blood sugar levels. Salt will also be on the chopping block, and her diet will now likely include foods that are more supportive of healthy blood pressure levels.
And just like any other pregnant woman, she'll have to plan to gain a healthy amount of weight during the first few months of her pregnancy—which can be anywhere between 25 and 35 pounds, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Despite the risks, it's important to note that a majority of geriatric pregnancies end up being completely safe. The CDC reports that between 2000 and 2012, the birth rate for mothers between 35 and 39 rose by upwards of 40 percent in some states. The rates of American women having babies in their 40s have also doubled during this period, so Markle is in great company.