Having a Baby Later in Life
Advances in medical care have made it possible for Carolyn to have a baby at 55, and the pregnancy rate among women over 35 has nearly doubled. If you're thinking about having a baby later in life, you should be aware of the risks — which increase with age — so you can make an informed decision. Women over 35 have an increased risk of the following complications during pregnancy: miscarriage, placenta previa, fetal distress, cesarean birth, high blood pressure, diabetes, ectopic pregnancy and premature delivery. The baby is also at risk for low birthweight, genetic disorders like Down syndrome, asphyxia, brain bleeds and stillbirth. According to the March of Dimes, if you are thinking of getting pregnant after the age of 35, there are things you can do now to help reduce risks during pregnancy:
- Plan for pregnancy by seeing a health care provider before you conceive.
- Ensure that you are receiving optimal prenatal care. Prenatal care is especially important if you're over 35 because you're more likely to get high blood pressure and diabetes for the first time during pregnancy. You can also ask about prenatal screening tests such as amniocentesis.
- Don't take any medications or herbal supplements without first checking with your health care provider.
- Don't drink alcohol, smoke or take illegal drugs.
- Be sure to get a proper amount of exercise before, during and after your pregnancy. Ask for your health care provider's guidance.
- Make sure you follow a healthy diet. Eat a variety of nutritious foods.
- Gain a healthy amount of weight. If you decide to get pregnant later in life, Dr. Phil has advice:
- Think ahead to what the future will be like. "Age is not just a state of mind," says Dr. Phil. "It makes a good story, but it's not. It is a state of body, it is a state of organs, and the mortality risk goes up as you get older." The difference in your body between 40 and 55 is not the same as the difference in your body between 55 and 70 because the aging curve accelerates. You're going to deteriorate more per year between 55 and 70 than you did between 40 and 55. Consider what age you'll be when your child becomes a teenager. How will your parenting abilities be? Imagine being 70 years old during that high demand time. Will you have the energy? Will you have the physical presence and health?
- Work closely with medical personnel that are skilled in older-age pregnancies.
- Make a conscious decision to take the best possible care of yourself by not smoking, not exposing yourself to any toxins, not allowing yourself to get overweight, out of shape, run down or overworked. You truly have to take care of your children's mother, because you know that some of the high demand years are some of the years that you are going to have to be at your absolute best in order to cope and companion them through those times. Put yourself at the top of the list.
- Prepare your child for the eventuality of your death. As morbid as it sounds, you have to take your death into consideration because your chance of death between 55 and 70 is a whole lot higher than it is between 40 and 55. How will your child get along without you? Will there be a legal guardian? Will your child have financial support? If you have a support system of friends and family, the transition may be a little easier on your child. As soon as your child is old enough, start talking about the fact that you're older than a lot of moms. Of course, any of us can be gone in the blink of an eye, whether we're 22 or 72, but you want to take particular care to prepare your children to have a really good foundation about who they are mentally, emotionally and spiritually so they don't feel devastatingly alone if they lose you during their teen years. By making sure there are significant others in their life, a spiritual foundation, things to fall back on, you can really mitigate the impact should something happen.