The truth about geriatric pregnancy? It sounds way scarier than it is.
Rav’s Repro is a column in which Erin explores all topics related to reproduction and reproductive rights.
Few things feel crappier than reading the diagnosis “elderly multigravida” on ALL of the paperwork related to your pregnancy. I am over 35. This is not my first pregnancy (if it were, I would only be “elderly primigravida, which somehow sounds… less awful?)
I am elderly multigravida, aka of “advanced maternal age,” aka having a “geriatric pregnancy.”
Actually, I am over 40, so I'm like SUPER-ELDERLY-MULTIGRAVIDA.
(I am 100 percent sure that a man coined ALL of these terms.)
As we know, this automatically makes me high-risk. Sprinkle in the five miscarriages I had in the 18 months leading up to this pregnancy, and this makes me multigravida with a history of recurrent miscarriage (including a “late loss”).
When you look up AMA (advanced maternal age) on medical sites, such as the Mayo Clinic, you will be greeted by a fun-filled list of all the increased risks of some old broad like me being pregnant.
The party does not stop.
However, statistics are just that — statistics. They are not living, breathing human experiences. And for all of my high-riskness, my geriatric pregnancy is not reflected in those stats.
Yes, in my first trimester and about half of my second trimester, I had more tests, more thresholds to pass, more precautions in place. But most of those had less to do with my age and more to do what may have been contributing factors in my “late loss.” (See MTHFR gene mutation and “incompetent cervix” — another term most definitely created by a man. I mean, come on cervix, get it together! You are so gonna be fired. I digress.) Those risk factors exist completely outside of age.
So, by the time I got through the first 1/3 - 1/2 of my pregnancy, a funny thing happened. My OB stopped treating me like a high-risk patient. My appointments were scheduled just like any non-geriatric pregnant person’s appointments would be. And, you know what? Every time I have asked about one of those risks associated with age — despite my age — my doctor has replied with, “We don’t consider you at higher risk for that.”
All of this is to say, regardless of my age and my history of previous losses and the anxiety that could rear its ugly head: I feel pretty damn regular-risk.
I am 14 years older than when I was pregnant with my son. But, I have more energy now than I did then. In fact, the past few months have flown by because I have been so extraordinarily busy. (Which is perplexing because the pregnancy has been going by so quickly, but Trump’s presidency feels like it has lasted for 1,000 years already, not 100+ days.)
The best thing this time around: I am not depressed. I don't have that all-consuming anxiety about what’s going to happen when that baby gets here. I don’t lie awake at night wondering if I can really make it through labor and the sleepless nights of infancy. I feel confident in my coping mechanisms.
Yes, I have the benefit of having done this before, which is usually a confidence booster. But, in speaking with other first-time mothers over the age of 35, I find that the majority of them have experienced advanced maternal age in a similar way.
The truth about geriatric pregnancy? It sounds way scarier than it is. And in the end, for most people, it’s just a regular pregnancy, with a few extra tests.
Reproductive choices, pregnancies, births, the postpartum days, and parenting is a wholly unique experience for every individual. It would be awesome if we all placed our judgments and statistics aside, and consider that life plays out differently for us all. While we can’t control much of this, we can approach the twists and turns with an openness and adaptability that makes scary journeys a whole lot less scary.
Hey, Erin! How’s your pregnancy going?
I am 32 weeks now. Five weeks from full-term and eight from my estimated due date. My biggest challenge at the moment is time. But, isn’t that always true for most of us? We’ve started getting things set-up for the baby here at home, and I am doing my best to get work-related stuff organized, scheduled, and sorted for maternity leave (I am not sure yet how long I will take). We took an infant CPR class this past weekend, and it was a little scary, but more than that, it was really informative. CPR and choking protocol on infants is very different from what is done on an adult. As I’ve gotten older, I have learned that information is the surest way for me to combat anxiety. The more prepared and informed I am, the less anxious I feel about all the what-ifs. We certainly can’t predict those, especially when it comes to parenting, but being armed with some info is always a good thing. Until next time, XOXO.