Pregnancy after 40 – My pre-pregnancy fears
When you think about midlife, the word that usually comes to mind is crisis, not MUM. Reflecting on everything, I think I had a midlife crisis brought on by poring over Internet search results on older mums, health, fertility and ageing eggs.
Doubtful thoughts ran through my head on a daily basis. What if I was infertile? What if my husband was? What if we NEVER had children? What if he left me later for someone – GOD FORBID – younger of child-bearing potential? The unsparing science behind fertility was certainly a worry to me.
I knew my ovaries didn’t care whether I’d fueled up on lean greens, hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol or that I’d never smoked, they’d age any way. And on that note, I could have just given in and accepted that getting pregnant at MY AGE was too much of a risk. The thing is I’d never been one to go through life in passive agreement to the whims of what society dictated.
Everywhere I turned online there were stories of failure rather than success and I admit the cumulative impact of this deluge of information did nothing for my well-being. I feared the threat of miscarriage, genetic disorders for my baby, C-sections, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and stats that showed there was 1/100 chance of my baby having Down’s Syndrome.
I’d learned from the day job however that you always needed a strategy if you were going to succeed, so I’d planned EVERYTHING. I’d made a list of FERTILITY-BOOSTING FOODS and stocked up on vitamin supplements because I’d read that your fertility pretty much drops off a cliff after you hit the big 4-0.
My initial visit to the GP’s surgery about the possibilities of having a baby as an older mum was an important milestone for me. Unfortunately I left confused, upset and VERY disappointed.
After scrolling through my medical history on the computer and a wry smile, the GP warned me in no uncertain terms that things COULD and DID go wrong at my age.
To back up his theory, he gave me an example of someone he’d seen who had got pregnant at 40 and gone ahead with her pregnancy “knowing the risks”. She had ended up having a baby with microcephaly.
Looking directly at me, he asked “Do you know what microcephaly is?” I shook my head. By this point, my forehead was mapped with worry lines and I was thinking of turning to Google as soon as I got home. He explained that it was a birth defect when a baby’s head was much smaller than expected. He went on to reel off a whole list of other birth defects, many of which I hadn’t heard of.
“I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but you need to be aware that something like this COULD happen because of your age. If the worst happens further down the line, you need to know NOW what you will do.” He added.
I already knew in my head that I would cross that bridge if I came to it and NOT before and that’s what I told him. After all, why start worrying before I was pregnant?
What he perhaps should have asked me at this stage was when I’d had my last Pap smear. That felt like a MUCH more suitable question for someone planning a pregnancy. Or in hindsight, what my BMI was and how much exercise I had done (more on that later).
Instead he asked me what I wanted him to do. I looked at him puzzled. He asked “Are you wanting to be referred for treatment?” “Clomid?” I said. “Noooo, we haven’t even started trying yet.”
After that, I was told to go home, pop a folic acid pill daily and hope for the best.
Despite my age and the odds of getting pregnant – and staying pregnant – with a healthy baby – my next visit to the GP was to tell him I WAS PREGNANT. I knew it wasn’t going to be the cinch some celebs made it out to be, but I thanked my lucky stars that I had been able to get pregnant naturally. We were VERY fortunate.