No Spring Chicken

Having or had a baby past the age of thirty-five? If so, you’re in good company. Several well-known (and lesser known) moms have given birth at an advanced maternal age. According to “Mothers 35 Plus,” this list includes the following:

  • Sarah Jessica Parker (37)
  • Gwen Stefani (38)
  • Jennifer Lopez (twins at 38)
  • J. K. Rowling (37 and 39)
  • Brooke Shields (37 and 40)
  • Julianne Moore (37 and 41)
  • Helen Hunt (40)
  • Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Mariah Carey, and Madonna (all at 41)
  • Celine Dion (twins at 42)
  • Jane Seymour (twins at 45)
  • Cheryl Tiegs (twins at 52)

At the lower end of the age spectrum represented here, I (at 36) am scheduled to join their ranks in October. Because I am in the over 35 category, I will be watched more closely than my younger counterparts. Add to this risk factor a previous premature delivery, and it’s clear that as far as the field of obstetrics is concerned, I’m no spring chicken.

My doctor and I discussed these risk factors at my first appointment. Because of the previous early delivery, I am a candidate for receiving progesterone shots. (For more information on the use of progesterone in women with previous preterm delivery, click here.) To address the issue of my age, I have been recommended for prenatal diagnostic testing. In reference to this recommendation, my doctor said, “Now, they’re going to call you old next door. And they’re going to want to test you for everything. You can say yes or no.”

I told her that I wasn’t terribly concerned about the age factor. I know several women who have delivered healthy babies past the age of 35. She reassured me by stating that her oldest patient did so at 48 when diagnostics had given her a 1 in 6 chance of delivering a baby with Down’s Syndrome.

So last week I had my first you’re-questionably-old-to-have-a-baby diagnostic appointment. Before going in, I had already decided what I would and wouldn’t give the nod. Scans and bloodwork are okay. Anything invasive is not.

During the visit, we met with a genetic counselor (who asked all sorts of probing questions about family and medical history), a sonographer (who spent almost an hour looking for a thin line of fluid at the back of baby’s brain), a doctor (who lectured me on what I already knew about my chances of having another premature baby), and a nurse (who smiled as she stuck a needle in my arm and drew two vials of blood). By the end of the visit, I felt like a lab rat.

Still, if I had to do it all over again, I would. I have been reluctant about having another child for the same reasons I am now the subject of such scrutiny. And now that another little one is on the way, I will do everything I can to ensure that he or she is born healthy. If that means getting stuck with a needle every time I go into the office, so be it. Better me than baby. I may not be a spring chicken, but I am a very protective mother hen.

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