When you think about pregnancy over 40, the word that usually comes to mind is crisis, not happy new mum. I have had a midlife crisis. It was brought on by poring over Internet search results on health, fertility and ageing eggs.
Before this pregnancy over 40, I had so many questions. What if I was infertile? If my husband was? Perhaps we will never had children? What if he left me later for someone 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 alcohol or that I’d never smoked, they’d age any way. And on that note, I could have just given in. I could have just accepted that getting pregnant at my age was too much of a risk.
The thing is I’ve never been one to go through life in passive agreement to the whims of what society dictates.
Everywhere I turned online there were stories of failure rather than success. I admit the cumulative impact of this deluge of information did nothing for my well-being.
I feared the threat of miscarriage and genetic disorders for my baby. The C-sections, pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and stats that showed there was 1/100 chance of my baby having Down’s Syndrome.
I learned from the day job however that you always needed a strategy if you are going to succeed, so I planned everything. I made a list of fertility-boosting foods and stocked up on vitamin supplements because I had read that your fertility 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. She had gone ahead with her pregnancy “knowing the risks”. She 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 the odds of staying pregnant, my next GP visit was to ask about my pregnancy over 40.
I knew it wasn’t going to be the cinch some make it out to be. However I thank my lucky stars that I have been able to get pregnant naturally. We are very fortunate.