Getting Pregnant Over 35 Isn’t Really All That Scary
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I had my first child at 26. I always assumed that I would have one or two more but things just weren’t meant to be with my son’s biological father. After we split up when my son was just shy of a year old, I was single by choice for the next five years. During that time, I still wanted at least one more but was starting to wonder if it just wasn’t in the cards for me.
At 32 I met my (now) husband and we took things relatively slow. We waited for a year and a half or so to move in together. A year after that, we got married. A month after our first anniversary, we decided to try to have a baby.
Everything I read about getting pregnant over 35, staying pregnant, and having a healthy outcome was so dismal. It became depressing and kind of scary for someone like me who has anxiety issues anyway. Then one night in February, at the advanced gestational age of 36½, we decided to give it a try. Two weeks later I had a positive pregnancy test, which was a huge shock since I kept hearing about how hard it was to get pregnant at my age. Yet here we were, pregnant without even really trying.
At that time, I would have loved to find a few articles that told me that most likely, everything would be perfectly fine. Just one thing that didn’t tell me how old I was and how decrepit my eggs were. Not many positive articles seem to exist despite that fact that now, more than ever, couples are waiting until their thirties to even think about starting a family. The medical community seems to still be in the stone age about maternal age.
Then there are the OB appointments where they tell you how old you are (thanks, pal) and offer you every test under the sun for chromosomal and other abnormalities since you’re so, you know, OLD. One of my providers actually used the term geriatric maternal age. Yes, they said this to a hormonal pregnant woman which takes some serious guts. For real.
What they DON’T say in all of their statistics and scary talk is that at my age, there was actually less than a 1% chance of having any chromosomal abnormalities. In fact, it was about a .25% chance of having a chromosomal abnormality. Except in pregnancy, when does a doctor ever consider a .25% chance of anything being of any real risk, or risky enough to warrant a myriad of invasive tests?!
In light of this, we declined an amnio which had a higher risk of miscarriage than we had of having a baby with Down Syndrome. Seriously. Think about that for a second. We did opt for the less invasive nuchal scan which came out fine so we didn’t get any additional testing done.
See that? A perfectly healthy baby boy, despite his mother being there for the invention of the wheel.
The point of this post isn’t to rub anything in the face of women who are having difficulty. It’s also not to say that women over 35 who are having a hard time or didn’t have an optimal outcome are doing anything wrong. My point is to let women who are considering getting pregnant over 35 know that the vast majority of pregnancies have a positive outcome.
It isn’t always difficult and the outcome isn’t always (or even often) the worst-case scenario. So don’t let the medical community make you feel like you should be shopping for a walker and Geritol. You’re NOT old and, most likely, you will have a perfectly healthy baby.
If my grandmother can get pregnant over 35 and have two healthy children in the early 1960s, then surely most women today can and will. Just follow your doctor’s advice. If you are worried about whether or not a pregnancy would be harmful to your health, please be sure to visit with your physician and have a physical before beginning to try getting pregnant.
My first child was conceived within 3 months. I was 35 years old. Her father was 10+ years old. As far as the Dr. was concerned, we were both practically prehistoric parents. Did the amino. Results were – perfect. My labor was swift, baby totally healthy & she’s now 6.
My second child was conceived literally after the 1st time. We were shocked. I thought that only happened to teens. I was 39. I did develop gestational diabetes, so the pregnancy was high risk. Family has a history of diabetes. I managed it through food alone & cut out wheat, foods with sugar, etc. Baby was large for her gestational age, otherwise healthy. Labor was super-long and Dr. had to help baby out of the canal. She is now 2. I was 190 lbs when I gave birth, now I am about 135. Totally different diet because I don’t want to develop diabetes. Still no bread, and very, very, very low sugar. Primarily protein, fiber-based carbs & veggies, land & sea.
Six months after my 2nd baby was born, I had a miscarriage. The way I see it, it was a blessing in disguise, because 5 months later, my children’s father passed. It is hard work raising two young children without, for me, what would have been the added stress of managing a 3rd pregnancy alone, schooling for my 6 year old & childcare drama with my 2 year old.
Thank you – I wanted to slap the doctor who kept,making me feel like I was Granma Moses at every appointment! I’m like I get it you are doing your job but PLEASE STOP, after a while it’s just rude. I cannot nor want to turn back the clock.
It’s exhausting, isn’t it? I wish there was a better way to be informative without making someone feel ancient.
Thank you for sharing your story. I’m 32 (I’ll turn 33 right around when this baby is born…baby #1, and I’d like to have more, not necessarily very close, so I do think about these things.
I think this is a great post. I really think that OBs should come up with two terms when it comes to “older” moms since the age range for childbirth has widened so much. Yes, over 35 does have risks, but I think those are much less than the risks of a mom that’s over 45 or 50. And I really think geriatric shouldn’t apply unless the mom really truly is already “geriatric” or at least a lot closer to geriatric than late 30s or early 40s.
I agree. I am not often bothered by words, but the term “geriatric maternal age” gave me pause and thankfully I wasn’t scheduled with that particular physician again or I would have requested another. It was ridiculous, especially being only 36 which is well within the range of normal these days.
THANK YOU for writing this Regan! I had my little man just a few months shy of my 40th birthday. He’s my first and I was a wreck through the whole pregnancy wondering if he was going to be ok. He’s perfect! It did take us quite a bit longer than you to conceive (i think it takes most people longer than that lol!) It was just over a year and we were temping and doing various other things and honestly I thought it wouldn’t happen for us. After all the stress of not conceiving right away (cause I’m old right?) then throughout preg i’m bombarded with all that you’re too old crap. Geez. Thanks for helping keep things in perspective. We’re considering a second now and i keep wondering if I ran out of chances…
Best of luck on your plan to TTC! I would like one more as well (at the ripe old age of 40) and am trying to feel my husband out on the idea. It’s hard for me to tell where he’s at with the subject.
I try not to even stress about this. I was only 23 back when we started trying and ‘should’ have been ‘perfect’ and it took me seven years to get a take home baby. Our bodies are so much more about individual situation than age. those stats are so minimal when you look at the actual numbers. If i have a third, I will likely be near 40 and the stats don’t look bad to me.
I agree. I have several friends in their twenties and early 30s who has difficulty and friends and family in their mid to late 30s, even early 40s who got pregnant without any trouble at all. It’s so hit or miss no matter what your age. I wish the medical community wasn’t so negative toward women in their 30s and even 40s when it comes to pregnancy. The trend of “older” moms isn’t going away anytime soon so hopefully the medical community will catch up one of these days 🙂
I love that you wrote about this. My husband and I were just remembering how old our doc kept saying I was.I was only 30 when I had our daughter!
I’m 36, and we’ve been mulling around the idea of having another. Thanks for writing about this. It helps to put things in perspective. 🙂
It would be nice if more positive stories were shared. We might find that it doesn’t happen as much as we think.
Maybe I’m skeptical of the medical community or am just naive but I really don’t think it’s as big of a risk as they make it out to be. .25% is such a small number. I think it’s important to make women aware of the possibility but I do think they scare people more than they should. A lot of women who hit that 35th birthday have probably decided not to have a baby because of this when in reality, she very likely would have had a perfectly healthy baby. I guess it’s a little pet peeve of mine being an “old lady” and all 😉
I’m 37 and having my 3rd. The risk for abnormalities increase the most once you hit 40. Late 30’s the big concerns are premature births, preeclampsia, and high health risks for the mother. Also higher risk of c-section. That is the reason they really watch you at 35 plus. My doctor has been wonderful. She said yes your risks are higher than a 20 something for a baby with abnormalities but the biggest jump is at 40.
My grandma had my aunt at 30 and my mom at 39. Yes, having babies younger is statistically safer, but nature sometimes has different ideas and time frames in mind.
What Heather said. The thing is, statistics take into play the whole. But there are always outlyers and statistical anomolies. Yay for being an anomoly! 😉
we’re not sure how many kids we’ll have. i’m 24 weeks with 3rd baby that’s made it this far. we lost one last year. I’m already 34. Extremely worried about having another one and ending up with a Down’s child, because of our age. Somehow I end up with all the ‘weird’ in the world when it comes to pregnancies. I dont know. It’s wrong to say you don’t want a baby with down’s, but no one really does, right?
Congratulations on your pregnancy. It’s definitely scary which is why putting an actual percentage of “probability” helped me a lot before we were able to go in for the nuchal scan. I know that’s not 100% but it allowed me to relax and take my mind off it a bit. I have known (and known of) lots of women 35 and older who have had children, two of them were 40 for their first and then both went on to have second children. I only know two people who have had a child with Downs and one was 22 when she gave birth. Nothing in life is a guarantee but the chances of having a perfectly healthy baby are far, far greater 🙂