Pregnant and over Forty
Remember to stay active during pregnancy
The First Sign of Pregnancy
Most women know how long their monthly cycle is and how many days are in between. Hence, a late period is usually the first sign of being pregnant. We are told by medical professionals that many a late heavy period might well be a miscarriage. And so, when your period is late you wait for at least a few days to see if it does come.
After all, you are now over forty and according to everything you have read the chances of falling pregnant are so slim you have not really worried about birth control. You could not possibly be pregnant. Perhaps this is the start of the changing years.
But your period does not come. By now, two, three weeks later, you start noticing your breast getting sore and you now believe being pregnant may be a real possibility.
So you go and buy a home pregnancy kit and yes, you are pregnant. You give yourself another five or ten days in case you will naturally miscarry, after all you are according to the literature and health care professionals now in the high-risk group of people. Chances are your pregnancy may not be viable.
However, your period does not come.
Your First Visit to the Doctor
It is now several weeks later, from when your period should have arrived and still all symptoms point to you being pregnant. So, you bite the bullet and go and see your general practitioner.
To your surprise, the news you have is not met by joy and congratulations, but instead you find a doctor who is cautious and half expects you to ask for a termination.
Once you convince your doctor that no you do not want an abortion but want to carry the baby to birth, if possible, urgent tests are ordered. You go off to an ultrasound, blood and urine tests.
The risks of carrying the baby to terms to yourself is highlighted. You leave feeling rather glum and slightly deflated. The joy you had started to feel quashed in an instant.
And surprise, surprise once the results come in everything is looking good.
8 Week Ultrasound
But don’t breathe a sigh of relieve just yet.
Now that the dangers to you have been highlighted, you are told of the risks to the baby if you carry to term.
Genetic testing is strongly suggested.
You are told you should know, bearing in mind you are over forty, if the baby is going to have a genetic disease.
This is by no means an easy decision to make. You have seen the fetus on the ultrasound and at eight weeks you can make out a real little person already.
What if the test is positive? Will you then get an abortion? Remember that by the time you are off to genetic testing you may have had an eight week ultrasound, which pretty much shows a little human being growing inside you. Could you then really get an abortion some two weeks later?
Or is it an opportunity to find out about any genetic abnormality to prepare better for it once the baby is born?
Will it make your pregnancy less enjoyable knowing there might be something wrong with the baby? Or will you cling to some hope of the test not being accurate?
How accurate are the tests? There is always a chance the test for whatever reason is not accurate. You will have spent months of agonizing if you are making the right decision in keeping the baby, only to find out at birth it is perfectly healthy.
What if you don’t find out?
According to medical professionals the benefit of knowing, means you can be better prepared for what awaits. Or is this their way of selling the test to you?
Many who had the test have confirmed they would not do it again.
You would have to agree all of this causes extra stress at a time when you should be celebrating (hopefully you will be wanting to celebrate).
Before you embark on genetic testing you should do so with open eyes and work out why you would do the test as opposed to simply following what the doctors tell you to do.
Not to mention the fact you have to work out which genetic test is the one for you. Those who have opted for amniocentesis speak of the high risk of miscarriage and most know someone who have had the test done only to have miscarried as a result of the test (worse still there was nothing wrong with the baby).
Many no doubt would find it difficult to opt for abortion upon finding out there may be a risk of a genetic abnormality after having seen their eight week ultrasound.
Don't forget to smell the roses along the way
A Different Approach
Would it not be better if there was more optimism around women who are over 40 and pregnant? Remember the saying thoughts are things?
If we look back at history once upon a time pregnancy was fraught with difficulty for any aged mum to be and many did not survive. And of course many babies also did not make it.
Then there are the many women who had one child after another, with birth control not well understood. Those who had eight, nine, ten children were all well into their forties by the time the last child came along. None of those women were offered genetic testing. And they coped (more or less I guess).
The problem with the statistics relating to pregnancy and women over forties is that no retrospective study can be done. If a baby is born with a genetic abnormality would this have happened if the woman had been thirty? One will never know.
Also surely the statistics must be against women over forty as the sample size is so much smaller. There are far more women having babies in their twenties and thirties as opposed to their forties. And over time, as more women have babies over forty will the statistics look more favorable on them?
Only time will tell.
What you can do in the meantime though, if you are planning to keep the baby, is to be positive about your pregnancy and approach it in a positive way. After all we don't get up in the morning expecting to be run over by a car, even though there is a chance it might happen. Similarly, just because there are statistics that say you may get a baby with a genetic abnormality chances are you won't.
Instead of worrying and stressing about ifs, buts and maybes, simply look after yourself by staying active, eating healthy and most importantly staying positive.
Embrace and enjoy what is happening. Sometimes not knowing too much can be a good thing.
And chances are at the end of the forty weeks you may be one of the many lucky women who get to hold a perfectly healthy baby in your arms.
No doubt a little less stress during your pregnancy can only be a good thing.