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  • Writer's pictureElysia Douglas

Over the Hill at 35

I had my first baby at age 20. My husband and I began trying for our second child 5 years later. All my life I had been told that I should have my babies while I was young and that was my goal. I often said, “All the babies I don’t have before I turn 30, I’m not having.” It has also been said that man makes plans and God laughs. God must have had a good ‘ol belly laugh for me because I did not conceive my second child until I turned 30. I had my third child a week before I turned 32. My fourth and final child came at 34, just under the markers for being advanced maternal age or having a geriatric pregnancy.

Oh, you didn’t know that you'd be officially over the hill if you're pregnant and 35 or older? Yes!

My clients have been told they are of advanced maternal age and even seen “geriatric pregnancy” on their medical records.

What’s up with that?

As a woman gets older there are several medical conditions that are more likely to occur that makes the risk of complications of pregnancy higher. (You can check out Evidence-Based Birth for more info on actual risk.) Some of these include obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Also, women in this age group have a higher risk of miscarriage, twins, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, stillbirth, and chromosomal abnormalities such as Downs Syndrome. Given that these things place the birthing person in the high-risk pregnancy group, their obstetrician may recommend testing that is not routinely done in a low-risk pregnancy. These tests may include chorionic villa sampling and amniocentesis. They may be referred to a maternal-fetal specialist for closer monitoring that may include more ultrasounds as well.

You may be thinking that with all the additional risk factors, why on earth would someone choose to wait later in life to have a baby? One reason could be that they are more educated, established in their careers, financially stable and can now feel like they can afford to have a baby. Another reason could be that they are more mature, and more emotionally and mentally prepared to become a parent. From my observation, people in this age group are typically able to actually enjoy their pregnancy and appreciate its sacredness more because they are more stable.

If you are over 35 and pregnant or considering waiting until later in life to have children, don’t let these risks make you fearful or deter you. Be proactive and begin making healthy choices if you have not been doing so up to this point. Having a healthy lifestyle can help increase your chances of conceiving and minimize the risks of some of the aforementioned medical conditions. Seek regular gynecological care pre-conception and continue regular prenatal care after conception. Eating a healthy diet, increasing your intake of folic acid, calcium, iron, vitamin D and other essential nutrients, which can be supplemented with prenatal vitamins, is essential. Refrain from risky behaviors like alcohol consumption, tobacco, and illegal drug use. Also, plan to stay active. Most providers agree that you can continue doing most of the activities you have done pre-pregnancy during pregnancy.

For added support, consider hiring a doula. Doulas can help you navigate your pregnancy journey by providing additional resources to help you communicate with your care provider and make informed decisions regarding your prenatal care and any other pregnancy concerns you have. They are also there to listen, affirm, and encourage you every step of the way. Your doula may also provide direction for a support group for older mothers and be able to refer you to other professionals for services that fall outside of their scope of practice.

Are you pregnant, 35 or older, and think a doula might just be the thing that's missing to help you feel more prepared for the journey ahead? North Atlanta Concierge Doulas are here for you. Fill out our contact form or give us a call at 470-384-9330. We would love to learn more about your needs and your desires for your pregnancy and birth experience and then discuss how we can support you along the journey.

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