What It's Really Like To Be 40+ and Pregnant
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Wellness

What It's Really Like To Be 40+ and Pregnant

The inside details about pregnancy and birth, from four inspiring moms.

When it comes to pregnancy, we’ve been conditioned to think younger is better, or that 35 is some sort of magic number. Some would even go as far as to have you believe that your eggs shrivel up and dry out the day after your 35th birthday. Women hear this every day—even my OB/GYN has reminded me that if I’m interested in having children, I need to get a move on.

But what’s it really like to be pregnant over the age of 40? And could it be that for some, it’s possible to leave the worrying out of it?

Especially in cities like New York, where I live, it’s fairly normal to conceive one’s first child at or after the age of 40. But it’s not always easy to find those stories. So, we spoke with four women who’ve had that experience to find out what happened for them.

Kim Abbage Hart, Health and Wellness Coach, First Child at 44

Photo: Courtesy of Kim Abbage Hart

What was your experience of being pregnant?

Overall, my pregnancy was very easy and considered normal, other than being older.

Did you have trouble conceiving?

This was a natural pregnancy. I was lucky that I did not have too much trouble conceiving for this pregnancy. My husband and I were able to conceive after two months of trying. I realize that is generally atypical for anyone over 40.

Were you worried about pregnancy over 40?

I was worried about pregnancy over 40, given a previous miscarriage just the year prior, when I was 42. My main concerns were conceiving a child without any genetic disorders and carrying to term.

Did you take any fertility tests or other fertility measures before you got pregnant?

I did take fertility tests the year prior, as my husband and I thought we would be able to use my previously frozen eggs. So current fertility testing was part of the process. It was just baseline testing they do to understand my current fertility levels.

During your pregnancy, did you take any special measures because of your age?

I did have to see both my OB and a high-risk specialist. Around 10 weeks, my high-risk doctor did a blood test that tested for any genetic disorders (trisomy defects), and then at 18 weeks, they did a full-body analysis of the embryo to ensure she was developing normally. Seeing a high-risk doctor, they do an ultrasound at every visit to ensure the pregnancy is advancing normally and potentially see any risks prior to them happening.

What was the birth like for you? Did you use a doula?

Given my daughter never turned and was breech, I ended up having to have a scheduled C-section. I didn’t use a doula.

Was there anything you wish you'd known about giving birth over 40 that you know now?

The things I learned about giving birth are more attributed to this being my first pregnancy and child, it's not specific to my age. Overall, I'm happy that I had my daughter when I did as I felt more mentally, physically and financially prepared than when I was younger.

Shadoh Punnapuzha, Skin Care Company Founder, Children at 38 and 41

Photo: Courtesy of Shadoh Punnapuzha

What was your experience of being pregnant?

I was fortunate to have a pregnancy without any health complications. I was always on the move, but my energy levels were significantly lower. The second pregnancy was harder because I was more exhausted with having my first child to care for while running my business in the midst of a global pandemic.

Did you have trouble conceiving?

I did not have any trouble conceiving. I tracked my ovulation with an at home kit and I followed a specific diet regimen that was a 21-day cleanse of eating whole grains, nuts and cutting out refined foods and dairy right before trying. I have always been cognizant about what I put in and on my body, which all contributes in the conception process.

Were you worried about pregnancy over 40?

Sort of. I did worry if my aging uterus would play a role in the health of the baby. Since any pregnancy over the age of 35 is considered high-risk in the medical world, I inevitably had my concerns. But, since I have always approached health in a holistic way—living a well-balanced natural lifestyle—this made me confident in my body’s ability to deliver a healthy child.

Did you take any fertility tests or other fertility measures before you got pregnant?

Every woman’s body is different and so is their experience. I did not take any fertility tests or other fertility measures before I got pregnant. I live an Ayurvedic lifestyle and therefore I took Shatavari, an Indian herb that promotes fertility and balances hormones.

During your pregnancy, did you take any special measures because of your age?

They do a number of tests when you are above 35. I had a quad marker screen, which looks for any risks of birth defects. They also had me do an amniocentesis to check for any genetic diseases or any chromosome issues like Down syndrome. And, of course, you are monitored more frequently. Thankfully there were no issues.

What was the birth like for you? Did you use a doula?

I had a natural birth. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t have my epidural! My above-40 birth was really 20 minutes. I had no complications, but I did have a third-degree tear down there, which is normal at any age.

I didn’t use a doula, but I had done prenatal yoga on a regular basis during my pregnancy which I believe was extremely helpful. The moves, the breathing, and the strengthening you do in the class helps with every aspect of childbirth. I advise anyone who is pregnant to incorporate that into their routine.

Was there anything you wish you'd known about giving birth over 40 that you know now?

As our bodies age, they take longer to heal after birth. It was a little bit of a surprise for me as I had expected to bounce back quickly as I had after my first pregnancy. Much more recovery was necessary, my body needed plenty of nourishment with my diet and post-partum body work.

Rebekah Grace Rivera, Yoga and Meditation Facilitator, Children at 35 and 40

Photo: Courtesy of Rebekah Grace Rivera

What was your experience of being pregnant?

I was newly 40 when I conceived my son. With my daughter, I conceived at 34 and gave birth at 35. There is a lot of truth to the line, “every pregnancy is different.” I feel blessed to have had the chance to live that experience.

Physically, my pregnancy with my daughter was a breeze. I taught yoga and was very active all the way up until the day she arrived, but I struggled to accept my rapidly changing body and feared the death of my identity. I find this humorous looking back. With my son, I had the opposite experience.

My pregnancy was physically challenging. I struggled with SI issues, pubic shearing, nausea, exhaustion, and foot pain. But I loved everything about being pregnant. I found my body beautifully amazing and took every opportunity to flash my bump. All of his movements brought me so much joy. I found that the physical restrictions became a way for me to connect to my body and make peace with the new pace of life. I was just so grateful for him and a healthy pregnancy. Nothing else mattered.

Did you have trouble conceiving?

Yes, neither pregnancy came easily. In between my two children, I also had two losses: an ectopic pregnancy and a miscarriage. Due to both losses and my age, we started down the road of IVF. My body completely rejected the drugs so we took a step back and paused. During this time we unexpectedly conceived naturally.

Were you worried about pregnancy over 40?

Yes and no. The connotations around pregnancy at 40—like a “geriatric” pregnancy—made me feel as if I should be concerned, but truthfully I never doubted my body.

Did you take any fertility tests or other fertility measures before you got pregnant?

Yes, when you start to work with a fertility doctor all of those things are part of the practice. The tests showed that the odds for a natural pregnancy were not in our favor.

During your pregnancy, did you take any special measures because of your age?

I took every suggested test for a “geriatric” pregnancy and we breezed through all of them with flying colors. I feel very blessed that my son’s pregnancy was healthy and he is a healthy five-week-old baby.

What was the birth like for you? Did you use a doula?

I always wanted the delivery I had with my son. It was a dream! I labored at home until my water broke before going to the hospital. Beau arrived naturally about two hours after we checked in.

We didn’t use a doula this time because COVID is a motherf–cker. At the end of the day, having a natural birth with just my husband ended up being a really wonderful way to bring a new soul into the world.

Irene Mulonni, Restaurant Founder, First Children at 40 and 42

Photo: Courtesy of Irene Mulonni

What was your experience of being pregnant?

I had a girl at 40 and a boy at 42. Both pregnancies were similar and thankfully I did not have any major issues during my pregnancy. I had nausea but so did my mom when she had us in her twenties.

Did you have trouble conceiving?

It was a natural pregnancy. I actually tried to get pregnant in my late thirties, and it was not happening. We both got checked and were very healthy. We were measuring everything and doing all the things we were supposed to. I was stressed that I had waited too long to begin trying.

Then the fertility specialist we visited recommended I remove a very small vaginal polyp. She said that it would not normally be removed but just in case it helps, she thought I should remove it. It was a five-minute procedure and they recommended having it in their office. I had not had any procedures before. As I was coming back from the anesthesia and still groggy, they gave me a penicillin shot that they were supposed to do before the surgery and I started having trouble breathing.

This was followed by a series of mistakes as they tried to bring me back and the paramedics brought me back and took me to the hospital. It was a horrible year after that as doctors tried to figure out what happened. Side note: I would never have any procedure in a doctor’s office, as it is very difficult to know exactly what happened. I decided that this was a sign that it was not meant to be and gave up on having kids. Once I gave up, I became pregnant with my first baby naturally at 40.

Were you worried about pregnancy over 40?

I was very worried. I was told it was risky to have kids in your late thirties and now I was 40, so I wasn’t sure what that would look like and could not find anything positive online.

It was so scary.

Did you take any fertility tests or other fertility measures before you got pregnant?

I did take fertility tests and everything was normal.

During your pregnancy, did you take any special measures because of your age?

Yes, because of my age and what had happened to me, they tested me very often as my due date approached and I was told on day one to go to a high risk pregnancy specialist.

My doctor, Dr. Sean Daneshmand, was amazing and put me at ease throughout both pregnancies. He didn’t treat me like a high risk so I started relaxing a bit.

What was the birth like for you? Did you use a doula?

Because of what had happened in the office procedure, they asked that I have a cesarean for both babies, so I did. This was nerve racking because every procedure adds risk. My doctor was amazing and everything went well.

I used a doula to help me learn how to breastfeed. It is not as easy as some make you believe, but it is very important for the baby. A lot of my mom friends gave up but I had read a lot about how important it is for a baby’s immune system so I just kept at it and the doula helped a lot. I also borrowed a scale from the hospital and was weighing my first child to make sure she was getting enough milk.

My first baby had half breast milk and half formula, because I didn’t have enough milk. I had been a vegetarian for many years. For my second baby, I had begun a vegan diet after giving birth and going to Dr. Barnet Meltzer, a holistic doctor, and I was able to fully provide my child breastmilk.

Was there anything you wish you'd known about giving birth over 40 that you know now?

I wish I knew that if I was healthy before the pregnancy and during the pregnancy that I did not need to be so afraid and could enjoy my pregnancy more. Depending on our lifestyle, I think it’s more about the age of your body on the inside and how you have treated it versus the age on your birth certificate. I know so many young moms that have had incredibly stressful pregnancies and losses. I didn’t know how uneventful mine was until I heard from other moms.

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