I don’t feel old, you know. As I write this blog post, I am 38. My youngest child just turned 2. I gave birth to her when I was 36. Imagine my surprise when I looked at my chart and saw if you words that made me cringe. Geriatric pregnancy. Advanced maternal age. High risk.
I was really confused, because my two previous pregnancies had been just about as boring as a pregnancy can be. There were very few issues with me physically and it was surprising to me to see those words on my file. But as I would learn in the months to come, 35 is and established turning point in pregnancy complications, and it changes the way doctors approach care.
One of the things I discovered that was different between having a baby before 35 and after 35 was that some of the procedures that were not covered by insurance when I was younger, or now an option. My insurance covered much more genetic testing and other blood tests, that it did not cover before and my doctor had never even talk to me about.
It was recommended that I have more ultrasounds, and they monitored my blood pressure and other vital signs, including my weight, or any signs of trouble carefully. Overall, I had more appointments and talked to my doctor about more tests, even though I didn’t do or engage in much of the additional recommended services.
When the time for delivery near, when I didn’t show signs of going into labor on my own, my doctor was much more aggressive about moving forward with inducing the baby then he had been with my previous children, especially as my blood pressure began to climb near the end.
In any case, my baby arrived without issue for the most part and I was a mother again.
Having had children at different stages of my life, I can appreciate some of the pros and cons of having a baby after 35.
Pro. In my case, I was older and I was much more established financially. It is hard for me to imagine how difficult it must be to be a young mother with children, maybe not having completed an education and not have had an opportunity to build any resources to fall back on as an older parent. I didn’t have the stress of having to go back to work right away. Having good insurance and the ability to pay co-pays without concern really made the process less stressful and more enjoyable.
Con. There is a higher risk of complications when you get pregnant after 35. This includes preeclampsia, premature birth, low birth weight, gestational diabetes, birth defects, and multiples (twins, etc) and others. This doesn’t mean that you can’t carry a healthy child to term, but there are more risks. For me personally, an early ultrasound identified an issue with the baby’s umbilical cord. In some cases, umbilical cord problems can be a sign of genetic abnormalities. Luckily, my daughter was fine and healthy, but it is possible that the cord issue was something related to my age.
Con. My body definitely didn’t bounce back like it did when it was younger. With my earlier pregnancies, my body didn’t return to its pre-pregnancy state, but it was much closer. After my last pregnancy, I noticed that my skin had dramatically changed, it was less elastic, dryer, and there were a lot more wrinkles everywhere. The skin of my stomach also did not get anywhere near back to the way it used to be. My breasts have also taken a dramatic dive. I am still not comfortable with these changes, though I am trying to improve my attitude about them.
Pro. As an older parent, I know a lot more about the world. I am much more mature now than I was in my first pregnancies. I’ve had an opportunity to work on myself and grow as a person and as a mother. I am much better equipped now to handle the challenges of having a baby. Not much stresses me out, because even if I don’t know the answer, I am confident in myself and my abilities that I will be able to figure out the answer.
Con. I don’t have as much energy as I did as a younger mother. Staying up all night to nurse a baby when she is cluster feeding does more to wreck my day and the next day than it used to. Is much harder for me to charge through the day with the kids and then do much in my house or for me personally after they go to bed.
I have to really do a lot of work to motivate myself to get up and continue to clean the house or to work on my internet businesses or other projects after they go to bed. I would rather lay down and read a book or even just go to sleep. I am trying to combat that with making sure that I exercise, even if it is low intensity exercise. I need to at least walk. I’m also looking carefully at what I eat and making sure that the food I put in my body is good for me and is not just crap.
Pro and Con. Having a baby later in life means that my parents are older. This is good and bad. Having children when you are younger means that the grandparents are also younger. For them, being younger means that it is easier for them in some ways to help with young children.
Young children are demanding, heavy, and fast. My mother loves to help me with my kids but it is getting harder for her to do the things that they want to do. They want her to pick them up, and to get down on her hands and knees and crawl into their tents and under the bed. They want her to hike with them and run with them.
My mother does very well, and she keeps up. But it doesn’t take much for her to get tired, or for her back to hurt. I think that it troubles her that she cannot do as much as she would like, so she pushes herself harder than I think she ought to. There is more of a danger now that she will get hurt playing with them.
It also is more likely that the kids will get away from her if we are not in a place that is safe for them to run wild. However on the upside of having kids when you are older, it is more likely that your parents, the kids grandparents, will be retired and more available to be with you and the kids. So basically what we exchanged in age is time versus physical ability.
Pro. If you have a baby later in life, especially after all of your other friends have had babies, you will not have to buy anything if you don’t want to. When you are the first one to have a baby or you are pregnant in the first wave of all of your friends having babies, you don’t have anything and there is no one around to give you hand me downs. You end up having to buy lots of stuff or your parents buy it for you, because they can’t help themselves, because they are so excited.
When you have a baby at the end of the train, people will be grateful to you for taking the baby gear off of their hands. While I was pregnant with my daughter, I was given just about every single thing that I could possibly need to have a child and more. Crib. High chair. Double stroller. Single stroller. Umbrella stroller. Infant car seat. Booster seat. Shoes. Jackets. Toddler bed. You name it, I got it. The irony in this is that I’m older, and am now of an age where I could afford to buy all of this stuff brand new.
Con. If you have a baby later in life, you may be in a situation where most, if not all of your friends, have already gone through the baby phase. They may have moved on into the phase where children are Middle School age, High School age, or even graduated from high school and moved on.
Those parents are in a situation where they are more free to do adult things again, and are not stuck in the nap trap, or the weekend sports schedules. You may find yourself sitting in a fold-up chair at a rainy soccer game while your friends are on a plane on their way to Mexico. This may put a strain on your personal relationships for a while, and you may find yourself forming closer relationships with new friends that are currently in the same boat as you.
Pro. Having a baby later in life can mean that your relationship with your partner and spouse is more likely to survive the chaos of having a baby. If partner have been together a long time, having a baby is something that you should be able to navigate without destroying your relationship. This is not necessarily the case in a young relationship with young people. If you are older, even if the relationship is newer, you will have more maturity and have developed more personal skills to be able to navigate your relationship through the changes that having a child can bring.
Con. If you are not in a stable relationship or you are single and having a baby later in life, this can make it harder for you to pursue new romantic relationships. As people get older, and have raised their own children, they may be very adverse to getting involved with a person who has young children, because their interest are now focused on doing other things. They have already raised their family, and they are ready to go out and enjoy life more.
Having a small child often requires that you make responsible choices, and those aren’t always the ones that are the most fun. A lot of people look forward to spending their late 40s and 50s and 60s playing as much as possible. Having a child in your late 30s or even your early 40s means that you will be deep in child rearing in your 40s and into your 50s.
Con. When you have a child late in life, you will be older when your child becomes an adult. Having an adult child is one of life’s joys, I think. If you can navigate their youth and then find a way to become good friends with them when they are grown, you will have opportunities to do many activities with them. Traveling. Skiing. Cooking and eating. Vacations.
But what you will be able to do if you are in your 40s or 50s, is drastically different than what you will be able to do in your 60s or 70s. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a child in your late 30s, because look at me, I did. But I am well aware that in 18 years, I will be in my mid-50s. Right now, my own high school friends have children who are now graduating from high school themselves. These families are all done with child-raising and can now go on to do other things. It will be a long time before I am able to live kid free and easy.
Pro. On the other side of this coin, if you have a child late in life, you will have that child to raise in your 40s and 50s or even 60s. Depending on how you look at this, this may be something positive rather than something negative.
In my view, children are a blessing, and I am grateful for the opportunity to spend time with them in my 40s and 50s. It is hard for me to imagine a situation where I would already be an empty nester by the time I was 40 years old.
I have talked to my own father about this, and he is now 65 years old. He and my mom split up when I was in high school, and he started another relationship with a woman who had young children. And the last few years, all of her children have finally finished growing up and have moved away from home (while I have been out of the house for more than 20 years).
My dad says that he is amazed at how much money he has in his bank account now and how quiet the house is. He says he misses having kids in the house, and wishes that they were still young and at home, even though his life is definitely easier because he is not raising kids and he can focus on his business or entertaining himself.
For me, having a child after 35 has been a blessing.
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