In the world of obstetrics, when a woman above the age of 35 is pregnant, she gets the really lovely title of elderly or advanced maternal age. Um, thanks?
Negative label aside, there are some really awesome things about becoming a mom in your forties. And there are specific things to know.
Here are 10 key things to consider:
1. (and also numbers 2. and 3. because it's THAT important).
The age at which you decide to have a baby is entirely up to you.
Your body. Your birth. Your baby. Your life.
The only person in the world who can determine if and when you should have a baby is you. Of course, consult with your medical team to discuss the specific details of your health and how it will impact your fertility and pregnancy. But ultimately, it's up to you.
The world is full of noise and opinions, especially when it comes women's bodies and pregnancy. Do the best you can to ignore the noise, and focus in on what you know is right for you.
4. Consider your fertility options
The older we get, the harder it can be to get pregnant. Women who are 35 and older are advised to try getting pregnant for six months before seeking fertility treatment, while women 40 and older are advised to talk to their doctors sooner, even within the first month of trying.
Keep in mind that you may not need any help getting pregnant at all. If you do, there are a ton of fertility options out there. Remember to be gentle with yourself as you go through the process.
5. Be aware of symptoms
Women above the age of 40 are at an increased risk of developing certain pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. You'll receive screening for these complications, but it's never a bad idea to be aware of them, and advocate for yourself should to you concerned.
Symptoms of preeclampsia include:
- Changes in vision
- Nausea or vomiting
- Belly pain
- Peeing less
- Shortness of breath
Symptoms of gestational diabetes include:
- Feeling very thirsty
- Peeing a lot
- Blurred vision
Never be afraid to make an extra appointment, or head to the ER if you are worried about how you are feeling.
6. Plan for postpartum
A study in Taiwan found that women had a harder time sleeping at the three-month postpartum mark when they were older than 35. This does not mean that all those people who say "sleep now or forever hold your peace" are right—you will sleep again, promise. It does suggest though that you might want to take special considerations for after the baby is here to make sure you are getting what you need. Consider hiring a postpartum doula, or enlisting the help of friends and family ahead of time.
While postpartum depression is a concern for everyone, research has found that younger women are actually at a higher risk than older women for developing depression. If you are concerned though, seek help from your provider or a therapist right away.
7. Watch your bones
Research has found the women who give birth after the age of 35 have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis later in life. While it can't always be prevented, there are certain lifestyle factors and may decrease your chances of getting osteoporosis, such as eating nutritiously, getting enough vitamin d, not smoking, and doing weight-bearing exercises. You could also talk to your doctor about screenings if you are concerned.
8. Find your village
Women are having fewer babies in the United States for all age groups except women in their forties. In fact, between 2007 and 2011, the birth rate for women aged 40-44 went up 10%—that means more mom-friends in your age group! Finding a community of other moms who get you and are on a similar journey will help you so much.
9. Plan for your birth
Women above the age of 35 are more likely to have a cesarean birth than younger women. I advise all women to consider what they might like their birth to look like, should it happen that they need a cesarean section as their story unfolds. Consider which coping methods would work for you in the operating room, who you'd like to attend the birth, and what it might mean for your recovery.
Thinking about a C-section doesn't mean it will happen, by any means. It just means that you are allowed to have a beautiful birth experience, no matter how it happens.
(Psst: To learn more about cesarean births, check out our c-section class!)
There is a slightly higher incidence of babies needing to spend some time in the NICU when their mothers are over the age of 40. This doesn't mean you need to spend time stressing, but you may consider choosing a birth place with a good NICU, just in case.
10. Celebrate yourself
There are so many reasons to celebrate yourself and your decision to have a baby in this time of your life. As a fellow "elderly" mom myself, I certainly appreciate how much more confident I am now than I was in my twenties. Many moms in their late thirties and forties have flourishing careers, feel more financially stable, have had wonderful adventures, and simply find that now is when motherhood fits. And that's awesome.
Remember that people are going to have opinions on your choices no matter what they are, so you might as well enjoy them.
You've got this.