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. Before we go any further though, let me tell you why I was scared during my pregnancies with both of my sons that I had over 40 years old.
When I found out that I was pregnant with my first son at almost 41, I immediately scoured the internet looking for pregnancy over 40 success stories. Unfortunately, most of the articles that I found were about the increased risks of having a baby in my 40’s. According to medical professionals, if I were “lucky” enough to get pregnant in the first place over 40, stay pregnant and then actually have a healthy baby, I was probably a unicorn.
As much as I wanted to detail my experience about being pregnant over 40 years old, I didn’t publicize my pregnancy for fear of having a miscarriage. But after I had my first son at 41, and he had all 10 toes and fingers and was overall healthy, I made it point to do what I could to encourage and support other women who were trying to conceive or currently pregnant over 40 years old. And I did just that by creating the “Pregnancy After Forty Private Group” a week after my first son was born.
A few months later though, my husband and I discussed trying to have another baby so my son could grow up with a sibling near his age. It took a few months, but by the time my first son was 8 months old, I found out I was pregnant again. I just turned 42 years old and we were ecstatic! I was banking on the fact that all went well with my previous pregnancy, that things would be just as good this time around. Unfortunately, I ended up miscarrying that baby at about 8 weeks.
Now devastated, I was terrified for 2 reasons. First, I didn’t know if I would be able to get pregnant that easily again if ever because of my age. Second, if I did get pregnant again, will I miscarry again, and how would I cope. So, not wanting to waste any more time than necessary, we conceived my youngest and second son 2 months later. I was still 42, but if I made it fullterm, I would be 43 years old.
My pregnancy with my second son was horrible emotionally! I was so scared that I would miscarry or that something would go wrong throughout the entire pregnancy. Everytime I went to the restroom and wiped, I was always looking for pink, brown or red. And then, one day in my 1st trimester, I wiped and it was pink. My heart dropped because I was convinced that I was about to miscarry again.
I scheduled an emergency visit with my OB, who informed me that I had a subchoroinic hemmorhage, and that the bleeding would likely resolve itself on its own with cervical rest. After abstaining from intercourse for a few weeks, it did resolve. My next issue was that I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes for the first time but was able to get it under control with diet changes.
To make matters worse, I ended up reading an article a couple months before my due date where one of the members of our Pregnancy After 40 group had a stillbirth baby when she delivered at 39 weeks. My anxiety went through the roof at that point. I could not wait to have my son so I could just stop worrying. More and more stories were coming out about the insanely high rate of minority women dying during childbirth and I couldn’t stop thinking about that either.
A few weeks before I delivered my son, I went to the hospital because I didn’t feel my son moving as much as he had been and I was scared that something went wrong.
I’m not usually a worrier like I was during my last pregnancy, but my advice to women in that situation is to go to the hospital if it will ease your fears. Its better to be paranoid instead of too late.
Ultimately, I was induced at 39 weeks with my youngest son and all went well, despite being told by my OB 2 days earlier that I might have to have a C-section because he was measuring so big. He was a healthy 8 lbs 9 oz, and didn’t get stuck in the birth canal as I was warned could happen, and he was born vaginally. It was the best labor and delivery out of all of my children, because I was adamant in having a birth plan that would result in as little pain as possible.
So to all of you ladies that are scared to have a baby in your 40’s, I understand. And I wish that I had a way to magically make all of your fears disappear. I don’t, but here are a few things to think about when you’re getting anxious that can decrease some of your anxiety and/or fears.
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 to longer walking periods. 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.
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 so your baby is born healthy as well. 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.