We have been running a daily post called the Older Mom Chronicles for some time now, and each time I read these chronicles, I see science turned on its head, and the simple truth that there is indeed no perfect age to have a baby.
When you are ready, you are ready. Yes, there might be challenges, but none that cannot be surmounted, if these chronicles, and stories of other moms, are anything to be go by.
So, how exactly does pregnancy feel, in the different ages in a woman’s child bearing window, before menopause catches up on us all? I’m going to put that in the bracket of 20s to early 50s, which is when most women become menopausal. Here we go:
Pregnancy in your 20s
For me, getting pregnant in my early 20s was mostly a walk in the park. I was healthy throughout my pregnancy, except when I got chicken pox. I still have no idea how I got it, and, although the itching was bad, I was mostly fine as soon as I started treatment for it. This pregnancy for me was the best introduction I could ever have to motherhood, as it was serene and enjoyable.
For the first few months, I even had no idea that I was pregnant. And when I did find out, I still had a healthy appetite and enjoyed myself, until my water broke and the babies came prematurely. Because of my excellent health, I was discharged the very next day, as the doctors had no reason to keep me anymore, since all my vital signs were fine for a new mom.
And two days later, I was back in my favourite jeans. Even though they were a bit tight, they still fit, and were perfect for the mosquito ridden emergency ward of the teaching hospital, where my babies were being treated. I recovered fast from that pregnancy both physically and emotionally, although, I cried a lot during those first few days, when the life of my first twins hung in the balance.
Well, for the second pregnancy, when I was 26, that was another kettle of fish. Now, that I have had more time to think about it, my issues during that pregnancy were mostly psychological. I didn’t plan on getting pregnant, my spirit was pretty down from the very beginning, which magnified every little ache and pain, and in the end increased the level of angst I had during that pregnancy. My state of mind during that pregnancy was not nice at all. The irony is that labour was even shorter than the first time, and before long, I held the babies, who had used my womb as a field for playing football.
With both pregnancies, there were no serious health issues. My blood pressure stayed normal, I didn’t have diabetes, and had no risk of preeclampsia. I did suffer from swollen feet and calf cramps though, but I survived it all.
Given the statistics, the 20s are the most fertile period of a woman’s child bearing years. Her hope of a family lies at her feet or should I say, womb literally.
During the period, a woman’s period is regular and she often ovulates, her chances of pregnancy are thus increased, not to mention that the risk of hypertension is very low, and she is only half at risk of gestational diabetes, unlike if she were in her 40s. Added to that is the emotional side, which is greatly influenced by other factors apart from the pregnancy itself, some can feel a bit ill equipped to become a mother, either because, they are just starting a career, or not ready to add a baby to the family dynamics and for others, a baby completes the family. End of discussion.
In her 20s, a woman has a lower risk of miscarriage. Research says, miscarriage rate is between 9.5-10 percent, the lowest it can ever go and the chances of having a baby with Downs syndrome, or with chromosomal abnormality is pretty slim; 1 in 1,250, and 1 in 476 respectively.
Pregnancy in your 30s
While doctors say a woman’s fertility during this period is lower, there are still plenty of healthy eggs to do the job, as Deola found out for herself. She had her first baby when she was 27 years old, and decided to wait for five years before having another. People’s views on her waiting were alarming; one would think, she would never be able to give birth again. Her mother practically turned into a song, her friends had their own version of the drill, they told her how her body was aging and how pregnancy would not feel the same way, if she waited. Well, she did not give heed as her husband was not shifting ground either, although he got less of the finish the business on time talk.
When their child clocked 5, they started trying and by the time, he was six years old, she was already 6 months pregnant. They had not needed fertility treatment, and in fact, did not feel any pressure before she conceived. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl some months later, but asked how the pregnancy went by strangers (her friends already knew as they bore the brunt of her craving and tiredness), she would go on to tell tales of how she suffered so much to have her princess.
In fact, her husband, a man who hardly complained was forced to say, “But you never did all these, the first time nau” When he had to take on more responsibility in the house, because his wife was always tired; their son spent more time than he wanted at his grandma’s place, because his mom needed to rest. It was an entirely new experience to her. The nausea was on another level, after each meal, she needed some form of mint to suppress it. It was on all day, and quite unpredictable. Deola definitely knew the pregnancy was different, and when her princess came, she was the perfect addition to their family. Now she had a princess to dress up and more so, she was no longer the lady in the house.
Generally, a woman getting pregnant in her 30s is much more prepared for pregnancy than one in her 20s, her career is most likely on track, she has energy to run after kids and has more financial muscle to provide for the needs of that/those child (ren).
But, I’m sure you have heard that from age 35, the chances of pregnancy drastically reduce and the need for fertility treatment increases. Now, here’s the part that is confusing, research has shown that more women aged 35 and older are having healthy babies, even as statistics say that shouldn’t be the case. However, with the pregnancy and birth come challenges, that a 20 something year old woman can only imagine.
Women, who are older than 35 are also more likely to have problems such as preeclampsia, diabetes, premature birth, and a low birth weight baby, as well as placental problems during pregnancy. The most common of these is placenta previa, in which the placenta covers part or all of the opening of the cervix. This condition can cause severe bleeding during delivery, but complications can usually be prevented with a cesarean section.
Pregnancy in your 40s and beyond
I met an older woman during the ante natal clinics for my second pregnancy. When I meant older, I meant somewhere in the region of 55. She was pregnant, with an unplanned child, as they had stopped giving birth years ago. You needed to see her, you would pity her, and the stress on her face alone would cause you to stop in your tracks. She never mingled with the other moms. She always sat alone with her husband by her side. When it was her turn to see the doctor, he would help her up, and she would walk slowly to the consultation room. Seeing her, you would not want to be pregnant. It was too much stress for her. I’m pretty sure, she thought all she would be doing then was enjoying her retirement and husband, not going to the labour room and raising a baby.
Another woman whom I know of got married at 39 years of age, and at her wedding, which I attended, the focus of most prayers was for God to bless her with the fruit of the womb, considering she had waited so long to get married.
Today, she is a mother of three kids, the oldest being 5 years old. To put the naysayers to shame and as answers to all that prayers, she got pregnant soon after her marriage and had her kids in quick succession. I don’t know of the fertility treatment she had, if any, but she actually made older moms look cool. She carried herself so well during all her pregnancies that it was a marvel to many people. She became a point of reference for my husband at a point during my second pregnancy, as she was also pregnant then with her second child, which she had a month before my babies were due.
One thing though, she stuck to only one Gynaecologist. It did not matter what she was told, she stuck to that doctor. All her medical history was with the man and she put absolute trust in him.
Generally though, the good news for women having kids when they are in the 40s and 50s is that, the chances of twins or higher multiples birth are higher, because most often, they will need fertility treatment, which tips the odds of multiple births in their favour. But there are downsides to it to but nothing that a woman TTC in those years would be able to surmount.
Phew! Pregnancy experiences differ per individuals, in fact no two pregnancies carried by the same woman feels the same.
Whatever age you decide to get pregnant, go for it and enjoy the ride afterwards.
Join the conversation with any of our TTC and Pregnancy Groups here.