Debunking & Demystifying Birth After 35
As noted in our last Blog: Debunking and Demystifying Conception After 35, a growing number of families are waiting to conceive. The average first time pregnancy world wide is currently 31 years of age, a full 10 years difference from the 1980’s.
As many of us wait to start families, many questions arise about the safety and health of the mother and baby. This series of blogs is to help inform and debunk myths of pregnancy and birth after 35.
So let’s get into it:
Myth #1: Geriatric Pregnancy, FOR REALS?
Definition wise, a geriatric pregnancy is the label/classification given to any women that is pregnant after the ripe old age of 35. That means that at the stroke of midnight on your 35th birthday you are considered Advanced Maternal Age (AMA) and your pregnancy is labeled as geriatric. The term places you in the category of higher risk for potential complications; however, we want to discuss the REAL likelihood of said risks so that we can move with informed decision making.
First off, we have all seen and heard the jokes about AMA (noted Ali Wong's Netflix special); however, as a women that was considered AMA, such a label made me feel insecure. It created doubt and made me feel like I possibly waited too long to conceive and that now possibly myself and my baby were at risk. Such language made me feel like I wasn't in or at the prime health to carry and birth my baby.
While I trusted my body and took very good care of myself, such labels can create unnecessary stress, concern, and worry. Personally, I think we need to move away from such categories as words are meaningful. Even when we know that everything is well such labels can effect our subconscious. For me, knowing the real risks and attuning to my body helped me put it all in perceptive.
In our last blog; Debunking and Demystifying Conception After 35, we learned that our pool of eggs age as we get older. In short, our healthiest eggs are released first; therefore, as we age our chances of less healthy eggs being released increases. This can make conception more challenging, can increase our risk of miscarriage slightly AND increase our risk for chromosomal abnormality too. Here inlays the added risk and along with this risk comes extra testing to ensure the health of the baby. Sometimes these tests can bring on anxiety too. Keep in mind, it's all for the sake of your baby’s health and doesn’t mean that anything will be found or wrong. You can find a list and definition here for more information about these tests: ACOG
With all this said, we are noticing a HUGE and promising trend towards individual care. Guidelines are changing as care providers move toward personalized risk assessment instead of standard care. As everyone has a different genetic make up, lifestyle, medical background and over all wellness;
pregnancy health is NOT one size fits all.
If you are with a care provider that sees you as a statistic and only accesses your pregnancy based on risk and NOT individual care, you can change your care provider. How your care provider sees you will certainly effect your birth experience, how it's managed, and ultimately how you feel about what is happening to you.
If you have more question about this don’t hesitate to email us about your options and concerns.
Myth #2: Pregnancy after 35 automatically makes me high risk.
We receive so many emails about the high risk designation after 35. What we know is that a women’s risk for complications during pregnancy can increase after 35. We know that as a woman ages her risk for hypertension and diabetes during pregnancy go up. Without a lot of research in this area such increases can be simply due to age; however, lifestyle certainly can play a role.
With this in mind, there are certain things we can influence during pregnancy that can help minimize your chances of high blood pressure and diabetes:
Ensure your care provider understands and knows your medical history. If you have any preexisting conditions work on managing them as best you can to keep your body in its best shape.
Adopt the healthiest lifestyle for yourself. Eat a well balanced diet and don’t fall prey to the notion that since you are pregnant you have a pass to over indulge. Enjoy and eat the rainbow ensuring that you are supplying your body and baby will nutrient dense foods. Avoid too many sweets, drink a lot of water and think about upping your protein intake.
Exercise to your ability even if that is simply a 10 minute walk in the evenings. Maintaining your weight gain and overall physical wellness is essential.
Rest and destress. Invest in rest, good sleep and taking it easy. Stress can add to high blood pressure.
The goal is to minimize the areas we can influences when keeping ourselves low risk. Remember that after 35 you may be in the higher risk category AND you can still possibly avoid an actual high risk diagnoses by supporting our overall wellness.
Myth #3: My high risk status affects how I want to birth.
This is a major question we receive all the time at Labor of Love;
“I am over 35; and therefore, high risk so I know that means I can’t have the birth that I desire.”
When I hear clients talk like this, my next question is always; so what factors make your birth high risk? The answer is always I am over 35 and labeled a geriatric pregnancy. This is why such language is dangerous and destructive. It creates uncertainly and plants the idea that being pregnant after 35 is dangerous or unhealthy and jeopardizes they way a women can birth. With this language women think; and therefore, believe that they are high risk and will not be able to have the same options in birth like a younger woman.
However, when we break this down, we need to understand that geriatric pregnancy is a category. That means that you will be monitored more and offered more testing than a woman in her 20’s; however, being in the geriatric category of higher risk is NOT a diagnoses of high risk. That means that your specific pregnancy may in fact be low risk. Without any complications during pregnancy, that means that you have no diagnosed complications and you and baby are both healthy, you should still be seen as low risk.
Myth #4: Since I am over 35 I will need to be induced at 39 weeks to decrease my risk of stillbirth.
This is a hard one because if your care provider brings up stillbirth and starts to talk about induction at 38-39 weeks, as a mother, you will follow along to protect your baby at all cost. No one should be made to feel like they are endangering their baby simply by trusting their body and wanting to have labor start spontaneously.
While in some circumstances induction is necessary and needed, it also comes with its own risk and can be very challenging on the mother emotionally and physically. When care providers use such language when no complications presenting themselves it is actually fear mongering and can lead a woman to make uninformed decisions about their body and baby.
What we know, stillbirth statics do increase with age; however, that risk is relatively low and a tiny jump from the risk in our 20’s. Noted from Evidence Based Birth statistical risk actually only goes up .2% in our late 30’s (.47% for 10-34 year olds to .61% after 35) . That is a tiny percentage. So, when we make BIG decisions about our birth, like being induced at 39 weeks, having this information is imperative.
With that said, I am not advocating to go against your care providers advice. What I am advocating for is trusting your care provider and ensuring that they offer individual care that is evidence based not fear based.
We have supported so many families over the age of 35 and even 40 with absolutely NO high risk complications.
I hope that this has been informative and useful for you. Your body is capable, amazing, so strong and powerful!
The more informed you are about your body and birth, the better you will feel about the decisions you make surrounding it.