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Older women and pregnancy: Sorting risk facts from myths

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Thursday, March 13, 2008 | 1 comments

"Oh, you're so brave," said a friend. Brave? Me? Soldiers are brave. Firefighters are brave. Pioneer women were brave. Me - an average woman having her first child at 45 - brave? No way! Just fulfilling nature's call - my way!

The friend's comment was meant as a complement, and I took it as such. But I interpreted from her comment that the fear of having children late in life seems to be rooted more in social stereotype than in science. I wasn't just a woman having a baby; I was an "older" woman having a baby "late in life". My pregnancy at 44 going on 45 was the first time in my life that my age had an impact on what I was doing. Sometimes, I was almost apologetic to others when I received "deer in the headlight" reactions to others who were shocked that I was pregnant. People were nice, though. Many told me that they had no idea that I was so old!

Going back to my friend's "brave" comment: I suppose I was perceived as brave because society tells us that having a baby at the end of the child bearing years means that the baby is at increased risk of birth defects; and that at 45 mommy doesn't have the energy she had at 25 to cope with baby. It takes guts, therefore, to do something that we are not perceived as not having the physical stamina to do.

While statistics support general conclusions that older mothers run a higher risk of having babies with genetic abnormalities, it is also possible that the reason that the odds seem higher is because fewer women have babies later in life so that the chances for an "abnormal" child are higher. I am not a scientist nor a doctor. In fact, I am not very good with statistics. My husband and I just went with our guts and felt that my baby was out there in the universe just waiting for me to give him or her a chance to be born. My husband is nine years my senior - imagine the comments that he received and receives now that the baby is out and about with us. He shared my enthusiasm for the pregnancy, and I believe that support is vitally important for a mom of any age.

I have only one caveat for an older woman wanting to have a baby who is reading this story: I recommend that she seek counseling from her physician (and psychologist/psychiatrist if she is being counseled or treated for any emotional issue or mental illness) and base her decision whether to have a baby on her own unique case and her doctor's opinion - not mine!

For the purposes of this article, I can attest to my own story: I was extremely healthy and conceived the baby at 44 years on the cusp of turning 45. I had two prior unsuccessful pregnancies after the age of 40 but still had a burning desire to have a baby. Probably the most important motivators for me was that I had the gut feeling that everything was going to be all right and my husband was there for me and shared my desire. Guess what - my gut, once again, was correct - everything turned out all right. I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. He arrived by c-section 7 weeks early. His premature birth was not due to my "advanced" age - my amniotic fluid was low for unknown reasons. The baby sailed through NICU and was home, without monitors or medication, in 10 days. He is now a healthy 6 month-old weighing in at 16 pounds. I noticed that in the NICU I was the oldest mom. In my un-scientific mind, I thought that if older moms are supposed to have sick babies, why wasn't the NICU filled with older moms?

I encourage "older" women to explore their own possiblities and not to be debilitated by fear of the unknown or intimidated by the perceptions of friends and family. Only God, you and your doctor know what is right for you - which, in some cases, is motherhood at 45!

Learn more about this author, Lisa Gasbarre

Life Begins...
Miscarriage stories of loss, hope & help

Stories of Pregnancy & Birth over 44y
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4,500 Stories of Pregnancy & Birth over 44y
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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    This information is true

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