Maternity Talk What it’s really like to be pregnant over 40

So, what’s it really like? Here, two moms share their candid stories of conceiving, carrying, and delivering post-40.

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So, what’s it really like? Here, two moms share their candid stories of conceiving, carrying, and delivering post-40. play

So, what’s it really like? Here, two moms share their candid stories of conceiving, carrying, and delivering post-40.

(Citi FM Online)
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Across the U.S., people are waiting longer than ever to have their first child. In fact, more and more women are having kids over 40 these days. According to a 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, the birth rate for women ages 40 to 44 was 10.6 births per 1,000 women, up 2 percent from 2013. And from 2000 to 2014, the proportion of first births to women 35-plus rose 23 percent.

That said, getting pregnant when you’re over 35 (or over 40) isn’t without risks, such as fertility troubles, increased likelihood of birth defects, premature birth, or multiples (if you're using fertility treatments). And even if you sail through your pregnancy trouble-free, it’s never pleasant to be deemed a "high-risk pregnancy" or to see "advanced maternal age" next to your lab-work. (Heal your whole body with Rodale's 12-day power plan for better health.)

So, what’s it really like? Here, two moms share their candid stories of conceiving, carrying, and delivering post-40.

Jenny Volkert, a Boston mom of two, was 42 when she had her second daughter:

"I definitely had a lot more ultrasounds. I feel I had them all the time, but part of that was also that I’d had a lot of miscarriages. My doctor kind of indulged me when I was panicking. Everyone gets a 20-week scan, but I also got one to make sure that all the right parts were in the right places, plus genetic testing at 10 weeks and a test for Down syndrome and trisomy [three copies of a chromosome].

"One of my miscarriages was in my late thirties, and they tested the embryo afterward, and the baby had Down syndrome. The doctor said that it could be my age, but sometimes it just happens to anybody. I had another miscarriage at six weeks, then had my first daughter, then had two more miscarriages.

"With my second daughter, it wasn’t drilled into me that I would be getting 'advanced maternal age' tests. My doctor was very amazing about that—but he definitely said, 'You know, testing at 10 weeks would be recommended at your age.'

"More noticeable were comments from friends and family. Every time I had an ultrasound, my mother-in-law was amazed that the baby was normal and was going to make it. She called it a miracle. She meant it nicely, but it made me feel like, you expect this child to have every syndrome and a brain growing out of its eyeballs! I could just sense the shock. People also said, 'You’re not that young! How are you going to do it with two kids?' But you can laugh. I mean, you are older and not the most nimble. Plus, maybe physically I wasn’t in as great shape, but mentally, I was more patient and calm. It’s a touchy subject. The older dad is virile and strong! Your boys can still swim! For women, it’s, 'Your klutzy old eggs still made something decent?'

"And I felt older. My sciatica was worse, I had bad restless legs, I threw up day and night for six months—but maybe the hormones were just different.

"I’d had a C-section with my first. My doctor wanted to do another C- section. But with my second, I wanted a VBAC [vaginal birth after cesearean], but there were risks involved, so I said, 'You know what, let’s just do the C-section.'

"Still, times are changing. I didn’t feel judged much in the medical community as much as I did socially.”

"I was 38 and had never been pregnant, and my male partner and I decided to start trying. My doctor had said that if we thought we might want a kid 'at some point' that we should really get the ball rolling ASAP, and that if we weren’t pregnant in six months, we should come back in for tests and conversations about next steps.

"The initial blood work showed that my ovarian reserve was 'normal for my age,' meaning a bit low but OK, and his sperm count was all fine (he’s nine years younger), so we went ahead for six months or so, and nothing happened. We went back and got referred to an infertility clinic. Then it was more tests, followed by six months of IUI (intrauterine insemination, basically a medical version of a turkey baster) with fertility drugs, and then it was more tests and referral to IVF (in vitro fertilization).

"As someone who had had relationships with women and men, I was probably more used to the idea that my journey to become a parent might involve fertility treatment, so the IUIs and drugs didn’t bother me too much. But once we had to lay down that cash for IVF—$17,000 without insurance—and I had to go through all the rigmarole for that, I was bummed. It was intense, and for us it almost didn't work. Of the 13 eggs retrieved and nine fertilized, none of them made it but the one currently in my uterus. We couldn't afford to do this again, so this was our one shot. It did put a lot of pressure on us. My due date is December 23!

"We did do a blood test at 10 weeks. The brand name of mine was Harmony, but there are others. It tests the fetal DNA in your blood, which is wild! It’s great and actually a plus if you are older; they won't do it under 35 because of a risk of false positives. It tests for the trisomies and intersex conditions—basically genetic conditions that would make it unlikely that you could successfully complete a pregnancy. It was really great to get that info so early, so we could make hard decisions if we had to.

"They never figured out what was wrong with us, but they said it was most likely my age. So, I'll be having my baby a month shy of 41. I don’t feel old and I’ve stayed in OK shape, so I’m not feeling the age that way, but definitely the reality that your eggs just poop out on you in your late thirties was a harsh one. That said, I have friends my age who got pregnant like falling off a log, so it really depends on your biology and your partner. For me, age seems to have been the defining factor.

"I'm lucky that where I live, there are a lot of older moms; it’s very normal. Sometimes I feel bad that my kid will be in college and I'll be practically retirement age, but then I remind myself that it’s an incentive to stay healthy (and I did read somewhere that older moms have greater longevity).

"And to be honest, more on the feeling old thing, what I tell myself and other people is: 'I got here as soon as I could.' I look back at my life, and I can’t honestly see a point where it would have been a good idea to have a kid. Now is the right time. So, I feel good about that.

"I'm in a Facebook group for folks giving birth in December (literally the only qualification, so it’s a crazy cross-section of people who speak English all over the world), and the teen moms in the group (and there are a lot) face so much more than the older women. It's unreal how much judgment gets heaped on them. Also, they are usually struggling more financially; for some of them, their partners have left (or they left the partners due to them being not ready for fatherhood or unsupportive or cheating or abusive). Not to say this doesn’t happen when you get older, but I am in awe of how much they’re facing, and still they’re going ahead and trying their best to make a life for their baby. It’s really impressive. They face way more discrimination than I do."

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