About a month after my 30th birthday, an elderly woman, who was admiring my 2-week-old daughter, asked my age and if I’d had any other children.
When I told her this baby was my first, she warned, “Do your best to take care of your little girl because you might not have another one.” I was appalled.
The story goes, “Your clock starts ticking at age 30, gets super loud when you’re 35, then just falls apart by the time you hit the big 4-0.” As such, it didn’t take long for me to start getting anxious for my friends who were dreaming of raising their own little village, but still hadn’t gotten around to baby #1 as yet.
Whether they are busy working to pay off student loans, taking care of siblings, or simply still waiting to meet Mr. Right, some sisters are trying to get some financial stability before taking on parenthood. Others are battling infertility, miscarriages, and ‘anti-fertility’ health challenges like fibroids, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), all the while the clock keeps ticking, or does it?
Let’s take a look at the top 3 myths about pregnancy for women over 35 years old.
You Have Fewer Eggs
You’ve probably heard that every baby girl comes into the world loaded with her own ‘egg bank’ – her two ovaries stocked with 1-2 million egg cells. Then by the time she hits puberty, some of those eggs are released monthly through ovulation, while many others die their naturally programmed death like other cells in the body. This being the case, by the time the average woman is in her 30’s (and past her fertile peak), her reserve of eggs has been significantly depleted to about 12%.
Truth: The concern about a low egg reserve is relevant to women who have already been diagnosed with fertility problems and are considering using In-Vitro Fertilisation to conceive. That’s because the procedure needs multiple eggs to be extracted for fertilisation. This ‘low egg reserve’ argument is a non-issue for women who are trying to conceive naturally. The thing is, if you’re only left with 12% of your eggs at age 30, that works out to more than 100, 000 eggs. You only need ONE egg to make a baby.
You Have Lower Quality Eggs
While a woman’s womb can be kept fit and fabulous, her eggs don’t have the same kind of longevity and resilience. Some of her eggs will die naturally as time passes, and the remaining eggs just get old! This results in miscarriages and babies born with Down syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities.
Truth: It is true that ‘older eggs’ don’t perform as well. The chances of the chromosomes dividing improperly, and the body in turn rejecting the embryo are higher in mature mothers. However, this experience is not exclusive to women in their 30s, and miscarriages are more common than we think for fertile women of all ages. While chromosomal abnormalities are more likely with older women, most children born with Down syndrome are born to women under age 35.
You Will Have a High-Risk Pregnancy
An older body is less tolerant of the demands of pregnancy, and so it is standard procedure for medical professionals to inform mature expectant mothers of the risks they face like hypertension.
Truth: Pregnant women of all ages will be at risk for complications if they have existing health conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease and obesity. So, it is not just for older women. Yet, if a healthy woman has become pregnant for the first time after age 35, then she needs to realise her body may or may not ‘go with the flow.’ She is more likely to have a cesarean section delivery, prolonged labour, among other things. Unlike teens (who are also high-risk during pregnancy), a first time mom aged 35 or older, is more likely to be well-educated and have better finances. As such, she is more likely to make better preparations for pregnancy, gain access to higher quality healthcare and make better health-supporting lifestyle choices.
Myths will always abound, and statistics can be deeply flawed. For women 35 years and older, the key is to be strategic when trying to conceive by tracking their cycles and timing intercourse for when they ovulate. Then throughout pregnancy, they need to practice self-care to help the body manoeuvre the 9-month transformation including any negativity they face for being over 35.