As a mom who will be forty when my eighth child will be born in August, I am really not all that concerned about bearing children in my forties. Yes, I will admit that this pregnancy has been harder than others, but so many things factor into that – my previous losses, my concern during the first half of my pregnancy not knowing if this baby would make it to term. Not to mention wondering if I was going to make it with all the discomforts that I have experienced in this pregnancy – prolonged nausea and tiredness, low iron, achy hips due to an aggravated sciatic nerve. I use to have easy pregnancies, now I can honestly sympathize with those who are not so blessed.
There has been much debate over women having a baby 40 and beyond. However, it seems like more and more women are waiting until they are older to have children, even with the knowledge of the higher risks. Plus, there are women like me who are choosing to continue to bear children past the normal 1-2 children and on into our 40’s.
What Are the Risks?
If you do an internet search you will find that there are high risks of birth defects for the baby and pregnancy-related diseases for the mother that are enough to make any woman scared out of her wits to even attempt to conceive, let alone give birth to a baby past the age of 40.
The birth rate for women age 40-44 increased 4 percent in 2008 from 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Contrast that to the birth rate for women below age 40, which went down as much as 3 percent from 2007 to 2008.(1)
March of Dimes lists these risk factors for women over age 35:
Higher chances of miscarriage (Editor’s note: I had 5 miscarriages between the age of 27 and 38, so shouldn’t I be more frightened as I enter my 40’s?):
About 20 percent at ages 35 to 39
About 35 percent at ages 40 to 44
More than 50 percent by age 45
March of Dimes also sites the following complications as being higher with age: gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, placental problems, premature birth, stillbirth and higher chances of c-section. (2) I think the national average is already too high.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that “The cesarean rate rose by 53% from 1996 to 2007, reaching 32%, the highest rate ever reported in the United States.”
Doesn’t sound too promising for us, does it?
So How Scary is Having a Baby When You’re Over 40?
Each of us will have to make that decision for ourselves. Personally, I know that there isn’t much I can do to control what my body does with each pregnancy. I cannot control a miscarriage once it starts. However, I can take action to live a healthier lifestyle, so should I be blessed with more pregnancies during my 40’s I will know I have done all I could to try and improve my pregnancy outcomes. The thing is none of us can usually prevent a miscarriage or a stillbirth or even a premature birth, unless we have knowingly engaged in activities that could trigger these events – which is pretty rare. Rare also is the doctor or midwife who points a finger at a mom experiencing a loss saying, “You did this or You didn’t do this.” There are some things that are just out of our control.
I am not afraid to have a baby in my 40’s. I think babies are a blessing whatever age I am when they are conceived. I will admit to being afraid to lose them during pregnancy, but do not want any negative comments about that fact. That is my personal struggle, one that I will continue to battle as long as my husband and I choose to have children.
What I would like to hear are stories of women who have had pregnancies in their 40’s or why some of you may have already decided not to have children over 35 or 40. I know we have a lot of young readers, but I also know that we have some who are older too and we all can learn from each other.
So are you afraid to have a child in your late 30’s and 40’s?