Geriatric Pregnancy? What the Hell!!


Age REALLY is Just a Number.  I’m not OLD, just MATURE. 
I never actually considered myself “old” until I got pregnant for the first time. I spent a lot of my twenties travelling around the world, not really interested in settling down for long, and then the rest of that decade and half of the next pretending I wanted to settle down, and then running around acting like I was 20 again. And to be honest, despite all the drinking and smoking and late nights, I was blessed with genes that helped me look 5 years younger than I actually was (can’t vouch for that anymore, even though my lifestyle is a thousand-fold healthier!). So, at the grand old age of 35, I found out I was pregnant and decided that being a mother was something that I wanted to focus on. I walked into my first prenatal appointment, biker boots and skinny jeans, and listened to the midwife tell me that I was on the cusp of being of Advanced Maternal Age, but that all my blood work gave the impression that I was still in my 20’s, so they were just going to consider it a normal pregnancy. I didn’t give it much thought after that, after all I didn’t feel “old” so why should I act any differently?!

I had an absolutely normal textbook pregnancy, a bit less of a textbook birth and recovery, and easily got pregnant again 7 months later (don’t listen to the hype people, you can breastfeed exclusively around the clock for months, but it may not stop you getting pregnant!). This time around I was 36 years old, and would give birth at 37. I was determined to not let age factor into any of the choices I wanted to make the second time around (natural, unmedicated birth, breastfeed through pregnancy, as little intervention as possible, no invasive procedures and no “extra” care), and while my main doctor was completely on board, the pregnancy was a little more complicated than expected. I had additional scans and a fetal echo to rule out the possibility of a heart defect as my first was born with an undetected one. Then a tear or cyst was discovered on the placenta, resulting in scans every other week to make sure it wasn’t growing or rupturing. Then, at 36 weeks I was diagnosed with dangerously low amniotic fluid, and after a failed induction had to go for NSTs and scans every three days at the hospital, in the middle of the sweltering NYC summer. I did get my wish of a fast, natural birth though, just before I hit the 41 week mark, and had an amazing recovery, all of which helped me move away from the darker memories of my first birth, so I could just keep the good parts with me.

I have always said that age doesn’t mean a thing; it’s all about how you take care of yourself and have a positive outlook. Pregnancy is NOT an illness, no matter how some doctors may treat it that way. Sometimes interventions are necessary, sometimes they save lives, but sometimes it can be a little too much… I remember an early second trimester appointment where my secondary doctor kept trying to push the importance of an amniocentesis, because of “my age and risk factor”… I had to politely and then forcefully decline THREE times before he offered an alternative, a non-invasive blood test that would check for the most known genetic disorders. I don’t understand why this isn’t offered immediately as an alternative today, I know that it is still pretty expensive and most insurances balk at the price, but I’m sure it’s a lot easier than any invasive testing (and less dangerous). And no judgment on whether you do any invasive testing at all, it’s just not my thing.

Anyway, a year or so later, and I’m pregnant again (last one I swear and yet again, you CAN get pregnant when you are tandem nursing around the clock and have a period every 6 months or so, I am the proof of that). I’m now 38 years old and will be 39 when the baby arrives. This time the first thing I saw noted on my patient chart was “diagnosis of Advanced Maternal Age”. Diagnosis?! Is it an illness?? Although I’m pretty grateful right now that I don’t live in the UK where they still call it “geriatric pregnancy”!! But I still feel like I’m 30!! I have a couple of grey hairs, but I’m far from OLD! My body has carried two babies to term (ok one has a heart defect but she’s still healthy), and still nurses both of them. My body has kept me standing after a lot of crap that I have thrown at it over the years, and still barely ever lets me down or gets sick. So, again, I had to do a little research and find a doctor and nurse combo who don’t bother me about my age, who I let talk me into a few early tests (1 hour glucose test is much more tolerable at 28 weeks than it is at 10 weeks, especially when you suffer from severe all-day long nausea), but who don’t bring up any invasive or unnecessary testing. The clinic I go to has a motto of “pregnancy is not a sickness”, which works perfectly well for me. And again, I’m looking forward to an easy, unmedicated birth, where I walk into the hospital, push a baby out, and leave again a couple of days later, healthy baby in arms.

I KNOW that studies show that there are higher risks having children later in life, and I know that I shouldn’t disregard these risks either, but at the same time, it can be very disconcerting to be told that you are “old”, and at risk, especially if you are a first time mother with no prior experience of pregnancy or any idea what to expect. These days more and more women are having children later in life, and I think it’s something that shouldn’t be seen as “risky” anymore. Yes, I will be 59 when my youngest is 20, but that’s the perfect age to retire! Oh and my partner is 8 years younger, so he will still be happily running around after the grandchildren when I have to grab my zimmerframe! And I will still be dancing around to 80’s hits all the way to the grave. So, while I know the risks, I also know my body and my mind, and that it comes from a long line of strong, independent females who also happen to be very stubborn. Age really IS just a number in this family, and there is no need to treat this pregnancy any different from my first one.

I would love to hear everyone else’s stories, AMA, young or in between, too many tests or too few? Doctors who treated pregnancy like an illness or doctors who just let you get on with it?

Jade Anna Hughes is a writer and photographer who was born in the UK, grew up in France, called NYC home for a decade before recently relocating to the California sun.  She has two young daughters and spends most of her “spare” time writing, reading and pulling her toddler off of her baby.  Jade commenced her blog in 2007 to push herself to be more open with her writing.  You can view it here.

Follow Jade on: