You know you should be feeling joy right now….but that isn’t the case. You have this sense of dread… as if everything isn’t the way it should be. You’re pregnant at the age of 40 and you’re scared. The prospects of a healthy pregnancy seem so far away. Worries about miscarriage, genetic defects, you getting pregnancy afflictions and even death can be paralyzing.
So you decide to find some information about having a baby over 40, and it seems like all of the articles you find have titles like “Pregnancy Over 40: the Disadvantages, the Risks, and Why on Earth are you trying to do this anyway!?!?!?!” or “Getting Pregnant Over 40: you shouldn’t do it”. They use phrases like “geriatric pregnancy” and “women of advanced maternal age” to describe you, and that’s just the doctors! Well I’m here to tell you that being pregnant at 40 isn’t quite as scary as it can seem.
You’ve seen the stats. As a mother over 40, you are 10 times more likely to blah blah than one of those younger mothers. You’re 12 times worse off than so and so. You know what I mean. And of course those numbers come from doctors and medical facilities to inform you of the risks of giving birth “at your age”.
Of course it’s the job of your doctors to let you know the risks and to prepare you for any potential issues, but because everything is given relative to the ideal, anything that isn’t ideal is seen as “risky”. As an example, the chance of having a baby with a genetic defect at age 40 is 8 times higher than it is at age 20. But because the initial chance is so low, your chance of having a baby with no defect at age 40 is still over 98%.
Another example is admission to intensive care. You are twice a likely to be admitted to intensive care as a 40 year old giving birth than a mother in her 20’s. The actual difference in percentages, however, is less than 2 percent.
Check out our article on Pregnancy After 40 Statistics for a full breakdown of the numbers and other pregnancy statistics. Many of them are not as fearsome as they first seem to be.
Here’s a big one. This one affects women no matter what situation they’re in. So of course when you’re pregnant, it can be downright depressing. Every woman gains weight during her pregnancy, and much of the weight gain is for the health and well being of your unborn child. Yet you’re afraid that you won’t be able to lose that “baby weight”.
First off, let’s look at what is actually an acceptable weight gain during pregnancy. According to the CDC, a 25-35 pound weight gain is recommended for women who are at their normal weight. Note that they recommend gaining 15-25 pounds if you are considered “overweight” and even recommend gaining 11-20 pounds if you are considered “obese”.
So many times when you notice you are gaining weight it is simply your body doing what it must to sustain an additional life. As far as what you can do to keep excessive weight off and/or lose weight after you give birth, there are a couple of things that anyone can do.
1) Drink more water – Drinking more water can help to keep you hydrated and help keep the baby developing as well.
2) Start walking more often – You can start by setting aside a few minutes a day and working up. Walking not only can keep your metabolism working well, it can help keep excess pounds off as well.
I know those aren’t earth shattering suggestions, but they really can help. In addition, walking can help you clear your mind and relive some of your stress, which can result in you not feeling as scared, at least during your walk.
Many people feel the need to let women know that they are somehow doing something wrong if they conceive or even want a baby after 40. This can frequently cause anxiety, apprehension, and fear about what should be a happy time in a woman’s life. Just keep in mind that many of these people aren’t medical professionals and are simply repeating things that they’ve heard over the years.
One thing we want you to know is that you are not alone. There are plenty of women over 40 who were scared and had healthy, happy babies. Here are a few podcasts we’ve done with women who spoke about their fears:
Jenny delivered a son who didn’t make it at 24 weeks and subsequently had multiple miscarriages before successfully giving birth to 3 children, 2 of whom were born after 40.
Joanna was being treated for anxiety before she became pregnant. Once she conceived, the doctor constantly telling her about the risks she had conceiving at 42 just added to her natural fear.
Rachel already had 4 children and was surprised to learn that she was pregnant at 46. Her healthcare provider discouraged her from having a natural birth, but she did anyway and now has a healthy child.
For more stories like these check out our podcast. There are plenty of pregnancy after 40 success stories in addition to advice from pregnancy experts specifically for women over 40. Hopefully that can help to alleviate your fears about your pregnancy and get you on the road to having a healthy baby!
This is a very delicate time in your life as you are going to give birth, and you want to be as healthy as possible. Being afraid is normal, but there are many people who can do and say things that make women far more fearful than they need to be. Just remember that in 9 months or less, it’ll all be worth it and, according to statistics, you’ll soon have a healthy baby to care for.