Yes, Medically Speaking – You Are of “Advanced Maternal Age” Part 1

Yes, during my second pregnancy I was what the medical field termed “advanced maternal age.” In other words: an old mom.

For those of you unfamiliar, in medical mommy world, you are considered of “advanced maternal age” when you reach the ripe old age of 35.

Now I was 34 when I got pregnant with my second child, and for three glorious months there was no mention of the above term; apparently, for those few months I was still just a typical mom, but as soon as my 35th birthday rolled around, I received much more than a cake. It was like I went from being an average mom to one who was old – literally overnight.

From then on at every appointment, I was reminded that I was of advanced maternal age.

All of a sudden, more appointments, tests, etc. were being added because of my age. It was almost as if the insurance wouldn’t cover anything extra until I hit this magical number, and once I hit 35, the extra appointments and tests were insane.

When I asked why I was receiving all of this sudden attention, the standard response was always – you are of advanced maternal age.

At least this is better than the older term (pun intended) “geriatric pregnancy”. That term makes me picture an elderly lady nursing who has a cane.

Now I understand that there are some risks when you become a mother later in life. And I feel that some of these tests were certainly necessary, but I also feel that they became a bit overly excessive at the end of my pregnancy.

I also admit that the constant reminders that I was of advanced maternal age made me irritable, and I still do not see the need to constantly throw around this semi-derogatory term. 

Additionally, I think that there are more factors to consider than just a woman’s age when it comes to pregnancy. I had a healthy first pregnancy, and every test during my second pregnancy I passed with flying colors.

There were no risks identified throughout; yet even up until the birth of my second child, I was barraged with extra appointments, tests, etc., and in spite of having insurance, I encountered numerous extra charges, and I could not help but wonder if it was all absolutely necessary.

So I did some digging, and it turns out that there are a lot of different takes on the subject.

I first stumbled upon these details on Evidence Based Birth.

It refers to previous studies that show having a baby with down syndrome at term increases from 1 in 939 at age 30, to 1 in 353 by age 35, and 1 in 85 by age 40.

Studies also found an increase in miscarriages in mothers who were 35 and older, but interestingly this number was not a significant increase from ages 30-35. At age 30 there is an 18% rate, and at 35, there is a 20% risk. At age 40, this doubles to a 40% rate.

Researchers point to the fact that most of these studies lump five years of women’s ages together.

So a 39-year-old-women’s risk factors were averaged with a 35-year-old-women’s risk factors. This is one reason why some experts are saying that not all advanced maternal pregnancies should be labeled as high risk and more factors should be considered than just age.

Science News explores this concept further in the article, “A Mother’s Age Doesn’t Matter, Studies Suggest.”

Laura Kenny, a mother who was labeled as a mother of advanced maternal age with her second pregnancy and also a writer for Self, experienced many of the same feelings I did and delved into the research too.

In her article, “Is Having a Baby Over 35 Really as Risky as We Thought?”, she stated this quote by Doctor Sarah K. Kilapatrick: “Age by itself should not be major criteria for a high-risk pregnancy. It’s really age plus whatever else is going on with that woman.”

After a little digging and reflection, my personal verdict is that some tests and screenings early on for pregnant women 35 and older can help identify risks and set up these women for healthier pregnancies, so I tend to be grateful for the extra care and attention I received during the first half of my pregnancy.

However, after numerous tests, and being deemed fine over and over again, I am still confused about the excessive appointments and tests towards the end of my pregnancy. For example, the non-stress test, which only resulted in extra stress that I didn’t need.

I will delve into this and more next week in Part 2 of Yes, Medically Speaking I am of “Advanced Maternal Age.”

Suggested Further Reading

What to Expect When You’re Expecting

What to Expect Before You’re Expecting: The Complete Guide to Getting Pregnant

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