Advanced maternal age? Check. Now what?

You know what doesn’t do anything to make me feel better about possibly trying to get pregnant again? The term geriatric pregnancy. Which is to say, pregnancy over the ripe old age of 35.

My first pregnancy qualified. I have to say, it appeared as though baby-making and my advanced age played pretty well together. The first trimester’s tiredness was no problem, as my daily schedule was already built around napping. The pregnancy hormones that loosened my joints meant I could lay off the Ben Gay. And increased urination isn’t that big of a deal when you’re already used to wearing Depends.

Of course, I kid.

In all seriousness, though, my first pregnancy was fairly textbook, and active, too. I conceived quickly. I set the pace during hour-long power walks with non-preggo friends. I did headstands in yoga class into my ninth month. I even managed to make it through the birth drug-free. It was a healthy, spry, if geriatric, pregnancy.

Now that I’m over a year away from the (uncomfortable and painful) experience and (insanely) contemplating doing it again, it’s hard not to wonder: What happens when your pregnancy is even more geriatric? Knocked up—now with crumpled tissue always handy in shirt sleeves! And jazzy drug-store cheaters! If only the possible consequences were that superficial.

There are real worries. An increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities, stillbirth and, well, I’d really rather not keep listing them, OK? Suffice it to say, potential problems exist. My question is: What am I supposed to do with that information? Seems it would be silly to decide against trying, based solely on scary statistics, as the odds are still overwhelmingly for the baby turning out just fine.

Actually worrying, too, feels quite counterproductive. Number One: It could prevent me from getting knocked up. And Number Two: It’s hard enough to stay sane during the hormonal roller-coaster ride of pregnancy without adding “Worry about things I cannot change” to the list. I can abstain from sushi and martinis for nine-plus months, but I cannot recapture the youth of my uterus. No matter how much anxiety I produce, my uterus will continue to remain as geriatric as the rest of me.

If we do go for it, my tactic will be to try and enjoy the process as best I can. Relax. Exercise. Eat well. Take inspiration in mamas of a certain age that have gone before me, such as my grandma (shout-out to Grandma T.!) and the lovely and hilarious Tina Fey, in a family way at 40. If Tina Fey can rock the geriatric pregnancy, so can I, right?

Kidding. Well, kind of.

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  1. by Stefanie

    On June 1, 2011 at 3:28 pm

    I feel like geriatric is an antique term for pregnancy later than 35. People are living much longer this day in age, so, it makes sense that women are having kids later. I know you were in much better shape than me during pregnancy – and after for that matter – even though I had my first in my 20′s. Age may play a small factor, but when you take good care of yourself, you will be just fine!

  2. by Berit Thorkelson

    On June 1, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Right on. And thanks! Also: You are in fine shape, mama.

  3. by Ellen

    On June 1, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    The belief that over 35 is “advanced maternal age” relaly bothers me. When they say that your risks increase after 35, what they really mean is that your risks of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality are higher then the risk of miscarriage due to an amniocentesis to diagnosis a potential abnormality. If you look at the statistics of actual risks, they go up a very small amount from year to year. At 35 and beyond your risks are still small.
    So go for it!

  4. by Kathleen

    On June 8, 2011 at 11:10 am

    I love Ellen’s comment. I have a child with Down syndrome, and she was born when I was 32. Since then I’ve had a totally typical boy who’s now 2, and I’m expecting another child who, by all indicators, appears to be just fine.

    And DS is not that big a deal. It really isn’t. I mean, it’s big, but it’s not the gargantuan, life-ending thing that it’s made out to be. As a school district told me shortly after she was born, “On the spectrum of disability, DS really is pretty mild.” My girl is awesome. Go for it.

  5. by Heather

    On June 8, 2011 at 11:47 am

    I’m pregnant with my 3rd, and 36. I’m pretty glad my doctor hasn’t said anything about being of “advanced maternal age”, I might have had to slap him! I’m not worried. My great grandmother and great great grandmothers, and a grandmother (and who knows who else)all had children when they were of “advanced maternal age”, way back when, and everything turned out fine. Every time!

  6. by Berit Thorkelson

    On June 9, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    Hey, ladies, thanks for keeping this conversation going. I love the topic and hearing others’ experiences and thoughts. I’ll post more on it later.

  7. by katie

    On June 21, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    I totally worry about this. Which is silly. I know a LOT of women who had great pregnancies and great outcomes after 35. Plus you are in great shape. I think that makes a big difference, too.

  8. by Paula

    On August 4, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    Positive vibes coming your way… but seriously, you’re not old so it’s not gonna be a problem! I had my first when I was 34, got pre-eclampsia, put o 65lbs of water weight, was on bed rest from 26 weeks (in hospital from 30) and still delivered at 33 weeks to a wonderful 4lb 6oz baby boy!
    Crazy as I may seem, I did it all again last year at the ripe old age of 37 (I delivered two weeks before I turned 38, how’s that for timing?). Bed rest again from 20 weeks, but held on till 38 weeks this time when pre-e hit avengance again!
    So, older can mean difficulties but I got through it with two wonderful, healthy and crazy babes. My little girl was born last September at 7lb 7oz and holding her head up!!!
    So hold that head and be a proud geriatric mother!

  9. by melissa

    On August 5, 2011 at 11:21 pm

    I had my first at 36, a second at 40, and my last was born at 43. My perfectly healthy third girl will be one this month.
    Upon getting “knocked up” this last time, I asked my obgyn what could I possibly be at risk for? And his reply, “According to my medical journal… EVERYTHING.” Perhaps, a fourth at 44 or 45 or 46… God willing!!! But we are very thrilled with our three girls.
    Good Luck and Best Wishes
    From an XX Chromosome mommy
    ~ melissa

  10. by Berit Thorkelson

    On August 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    Nice to hear your stories, Paula and Melissa, now that my potential geriatric pregnancy is a reality. I am ready to rock it, for sure. Melissa, you have to give me an update if you go for #4!

  11. by melissa

    On August 9, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Berit,
    Your ‘maternally-advanced-age’ pregnancy will be great… especially since your first baby qualified for the geriatric treatment. I look forward to your updates. My littlest little began walking at ten months and I am feeling the “oh, I want a baby in the home again”. So, #4 is on my mind, I just don’t know. Hubby is 51. I will let you know if we opt for the “what is one more at our age”.
    Cheers,
    ~ melissa

  12. by melissa

    On May 1, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Berit,

    Congratulations on your newest addition! I am thrilled for you and your family!

    I just wanted to update you on our crazy life… before we could confirm a decision on baby #4 — we are preggers with baby #4. We also learned that baby #4 at 44 is baby GIRL #4.

    Take Care,
    Enjoy!

    ~ melissa

  13. by Berit Thorkelson

    On May 1, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Yay, Melissa! Well that certainly sounds like it was meant to be. I appreciate you coming back with the update. Huge congrats, mama!!