Many women are deciding to have children at a later age—and science is helping them out. Better nutrition, improved pre-natal care, and a wide variety of fertility treatments have made it possible to have a healthy pregnancy (and a healthy baby) in the late 30’s or even early 40’s.
But what are the special concerns of having a late-age pregnancy? In this article we go beyond just the health issues and tackle the feelings and experiences of real moms who have chosen to have a baby at 38 years or older.
Be prepared for a more anxious pregnancy
While many women are proud and happy to have conceived at a later age, they are also more likely to go through moments of deep apprehension and worry. A lot of it has to do with the increased risks for Down syndrome and other genetic defects, increased risk for miscarriage and premature delivery, and the need to manage health issues that could affect the baby such as high blood pressure.
Fears may also be heightened by the fact that many women feel that this is their ‘last chance’ to have a child. Of course, miscarriages and complicated pregnancies are physically and emotionally grueling for all mothers. However, as one mom put it, ‘I felt this was all or nothing. I was 41 and I didn’t have the luxury to wait for another chance at being a mom.’
Medical costs can be higher
Most doctors will immediately treat a late-age pregnancy as ‘high risk’ because of studies that link age with pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, etc. You may be told to see a specialist, and depending on the problems that arise during the pregnancy, may need to have additional specialists present at delivery.
To prevent or monitor problems, many doctors will recommend additional tests during a late-age pregnancy. For example, you may need to get an amniocentesis to check for any abnormalities. You may also require more frequent ultrasounds or blood sugar tests.
You may feel a little ‘different’ from other moms
Many moms who had their kids in their late 30’s and early 40’s said that it sometimes ‘felt weird’ to hang around younger moms. ‘There were times that I asked if I was my child’s grandmother,’ once said, still visibly annoyed. And while they had common topics to talk about—late nights with a fussy baby, babysitter horror stories, toilet training battles—her interests and personality were very different from the twenty-somethings in her mommy group.
Aches, pains, and energy dips
With a proper diet, exercise and lifestyle you can feel and look younger than your years. In fact, many moms said that they were still able to play with their kids, stay hands-on (even if it meant running after a hyperactive toddler!) and join family days at school.
But on some days, you just have to try harder. It is more difficult for older-age parents to have strings of sleepless nights without feeling the effect on their bodies. Moms also said that they had to be more conscious about eating and exercise. ‘If you’re in your early twenties you can live on coffee and Cheetos and still have enough energy to run after kids. I take better care of myself, not just because I need the energy but because I want to live long enough to see my grandkids! I guess older parents are more aware of their age and the need to stay healthy.’
But whatever it takes…it’s worth it
Though late-age pregnancy can be an emotional, physical and financial rollercoaster, it’s all worth it. Many moms said that they were prepared for these challenges, and embraced them in their desire to have a child. If anything, the difficulties strengthened their resolve and made the reward—the day to day joys of parenting—so much sweeter.
For more resources on late-age pregnancy, you can visit mothersover40.com which has articles, support groups, and a list of books you can read. You can also visit this blog for older moms for the latest research on late age pregnancy.
Photo from guardian.co.uk