I was 26 when my first child was born and 42 when I delivered my last. At a time when our family focus was on driving lessons, SATs, and college choices, my belly was swelling and I was preparing once again for childbirth.
I anticipated a challenging pregnancy, labor, and delivery based solely on my advanced age. Yet, it was my easiest pregnancy, shortest labor, and smoothest delivery. In fact, nurses told me that I did better than women 20 years younger.
Although most mothers are still opting to have children while in their mid-to-late 20s, the number of older moms is increasing every year.
Your Age and Pregnancy Risks
Fertility decreases for women older than 35, making it more difficult for them conceive; but don't assume that conception won't occur because you are past the prime egg-producing stage. "Fred and I had just gotten married when I found out that I was pregnant," recalls Natalie Filkins of Mesa, Arizona, who was 40 when her daughter, Alexandra, was born. "Considering all that you hear about how difficult it is to get pregnant after 35, we were not terribly consistent with birth control. And with our second child I got pregnant only one month after I was off the pill." (Matthew was born when Natalie and Fred were both 42.)
Dr. Margaret A. Harper, MD, an obstetrician at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center and associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Wake Forest University School of Medicine, says there are common concerns older mothers face. "Because their eggs are older, there is an increased risk of miscarriage. And women over 35 are at an increased risk of having a fetus with the chromosomal abnormality causing Down syndrome. Also, the incidence of spontaneous twins increases with maternal age. Although pregnancy-related death is a very rare event, increased maternal age over 35 has been shown to be a significant risk factor."