Don't Let The Term 'Geriatric Pregnancy' Scare You

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
pregnant woman leaning against wall
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I was almost 35 when I had my second child, and I remember being pretty freaked out about how close I was to being of “advanced maternal age,” or the even more atrocious sounding label –“geriatric pregnancy.” I mean, is there anything more demoralizing – or terrifying – than being told that your uterus has essentially wrinkled up and sprouted chin hairs?

The fact of the matter is – whether it’s because of their career, taking longer to find a partner, or just because they want to – more and more women are delaying childrearing these days. According to the CDC, for the first time in more than three decades, the number of women having babies in their thirties is higher than women having babies at younger ages.

And while there are some inherent risks to having babies as an older mom, it’s time we removed the stigma and stopped scaring women off the prospect of starting a family as an older mom. Instead, how about offering these women empowering information about the journey that lies ahead?

I’m on board. So let’s get started, shall we?

Now, I think we’ve all heard about those scary statistics about moms of “advanced maternal age.” (And can we please come up with a better term than this?) While it’s true that older moms are more vulnerable to infertility, premature birth, pregnancy complications, and birth defects, that doesn’t mean an older mom is simply doomed to experiencing these things. Many of these risks can be mitigated with good prenatal care.

As The March of Dimes points out, it is recommended that women over 35 take part in pre-conception screening tests for birth defects like DNA screening or maternal blood screening. Additionally, older moms (actually, all moms) should keep all their prenatal appointments, get appropriate vaccinations, eat well, exercise, and keep up their care routines for any underlying health conditions they may have.

None of this is rocket-science, right? And the older you get, the more likely you are to take all this stuff extra seriously. Because you’re a badass, wise, take-no-bullshit woman who is smart enough to make her well-being (and that of her unborn child) a top priority.

But that’s just one of the many ways that being an older mom makes you totally awesome. Take this 2016 study from Denmark, which found that older moms tended to be more patient than their younger counterparts, and also tended to raise more well-adjusted children with fewer behavioral problems. The study looked at 4,741 moms, and found that older motherhood was “associated with less frequent use of verbal and physical sanctions towards children at age 7 and 11” as well as “fewer behavioral, social and emotional difficulties in children at age 7 and at age 11.”

Nice, right?

There’s more, though, this time out of Sweden. This 2016 study, published in Population and Development Review, found that – despite the health risks often associated with babies of older moms – as they grow up, these kids tend to be taller, heartier, and better educated than kids of younger parents. “We find that fertility postponement even up to maternal ages above 40 is associated with positive long‐term outcomes for children,” wrote the study researchers. Yipee!

But these benefits aren’t just reserved for the kids of older moms. Older moms themselves benefit from delaying childrearing. One study showed that older moms are more likely to live longer, healthier lives. Published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), this study looked at something called “telomere length” as a predictor of how long people live.

Basically, women who had their babies at older ages “were found to have increased odds of being in the longest fertile of telomere length.” In other words, older moms live long. So leave us the eff alone.

But seriously, give us all the smart, healthy, kick-ass kids in the universe, along with all the “telomere length” there is. We older moms deserve it, don’t we? And next time someone goes and uses scary language or statistics referring to older moms, you can tell them to suck it. Older aren’t going anywhere, we’re great parents, and we rock.

And, really, whether you’re a super-young mom or a super-old mom, no one should have to justify the age they are when they have a baby. Our bodies, our choice. And anyone’s judgment about that should pretty much go in the trash can, from whence it came.

This article was originally published in 2018.

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