By TMoM Team Member Suzy Fielders
Geriatric pregnancy, advanced maternal age, higher risk… if you have a pregnancy over 35 then these are terms you will hear, potentially a lot. I’m pregnant with my second daughter at the age of 38 and it’s come up a time or two.
When I had my first daughter, I was 23, and honestly the thought of being 38 was not even a thought. I mean after all when you are in your twenties the thought of getting old seems like one of those ‘it’ll never happen to me’ scenarios! That pregnancy was mostly a breeze, but that labor was a nightmare – and could be its own blog!
This time around the pregnancy has been excruciatingly long and filled with symptoms and mild complications. I can only hope this means a harder pregnancy will mean an easier labor than last time!
How does having a geriatric pregnancy differ from one with younger pregnant women? Let me share some of my experience in hopes of helping or encouraging ‘older’ pregnant moms.
More Tests & Questions
On that first pre-natal visit, be ready for what basically feels like an interrogation. Keep in mind though the doctors and nurses are just trying to get the full picture to help you have the best pregnancy possible!
When I went for that visit, my ObGyn told me I was at an ‘advanced maternal age’ and how it will impact my pregnancy. This was only after the nurses and doctors told me no less than five times how I do not look like I could be over 35. I get this comment regularly – sometimes repeatedly from the same person. At this point I always want to respond with, “Either ask me about my secret youth elixir or let’s move on…”.
After the medical staff seemed to accept that I was indeed 38 – because what woman would pretend to be in her late 30’s… – they discussed what a geriatric pregnancy means.
The biggest difference is you have or can have additional testing done. One of the higher risk factors in women over 35 is the risk of congenital disorders in their baby. This is because women’s eggs tend to deteriorate over time.
Due to this risk, most ObGyn’s offer a variety of testing to determine the risk your baby will have these disorders. Many are simple blood tests, but there are also more invasive tests like an amniocentesis. At the beginning of your pregnancy, your doctor will offer you genetic counseling to talk through the risks and all your testing options.
I opted for the NIPS (Panorama) test, which is done by collecting a blood sample. It tested for most of the major congenital disorders. The results took about 2 weeks and luckily for us, all appears normal with very low risk of those disorders. While not required, I do recommend this testing as it is just another way to put your mind at ease. Best of all, since it tests for sex chromosome defects you get to find out the gender of your baby early!
Extensive Background Inquiry
Regarding the additional questions, that mostly comes in that first consultation appointment. While they ask everyone very detailed questions to get a full medical background, it was more than the inquiries in my first pregnancy. Many questions relate to learning about disorders and defects in my family history. Also, there is an emphasis on asking about and fully understanding any medical conditions you are dealing with, which at a certain age only increase.
High Risk of Miscarriage
With all the technology today, doctors still never know what causes a miscarriage. They do know that being above 35 puts a woman at higher risk for miscarriage, even if its not the underlying reason it happens.
There must be some truth to it as prior to this pregnancy I had a miscarriage about 9 months prior. I wrote about it in this past Triad Moms on Main blog. Coincidently, after writing that blog and sharing my story I found out only a couple weeks later I was pregnant again.
For anyone that has had a miscarriage, you likely understand the fear of having another miscarriage is always in the back of your mind while trying to conceive again or even while you are pregnant. That is especially true in the first trimester of your pregnancy.
However, my body seemed to want to protect my mind from that fear. I was so sick daily the first trimester that I didn’t have time to think about fearing a miscarriage.
I fondly remember a couple weeks into my second trimester when I was finally seeing relief from pregnancy sickness. It was then I saw an article in my Baby Center app about how the risk of miscarriage had drastically dropped at that point in the pregnancy. After reading that I let out a sigh of relief and as miserable as it was to be sick, I was temporarily thankful for it as it kept my mind occupied.
Positive Points of a Pregnancy Over 35
Finally, I want to hit on a few positive points of a pregnancy over 35. Yes, there are some!
First, at that age and point in your life you are more likely confident in your body and self. As much fun as your twenties are and how great you feel, nothing compares to your thirties when you really understand yourself and gain true self-confidence.
Next, there is a higher chance you are more settled in your career and on the path doing what you love. Or, in the very least making more money doing something you’ve been at for years! This all means a stronger financial and job stability which is important with a baby on the way.
Lastly, its highly possible at this age and point in your life you’ve already had another child like me. That means you know what to expect of the pregnancy and labor. When I was pregnant with my first it was slightly terrifying not really knowing what to expect! That ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ book provides some great information but reading something never seems to quite compare to real life experience.
My final advice to women who are trying to get pregnant or already pregnant and over 35… try not to worry too much and listen to your body and heart – maybe let them override your mind a little during this time!
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