This post is continued from last week, and you can read Part 1 here
The non-stress test
The non-stress test was a weekly test that began around 32 weeks into my pregnancy; they put a strap on me that monitored fetal movement by recording my baby’s heartbeat as he moved. I was told that I needed to have this done because of my advanced maternal age, and there was an increased risk of stillbirth. I found out later, that there are contradicting views about this test, that I will discuss later.
The non-stress test certainly stressed me out the first time, but luckily my baby was like a Mexican jumping bean, so I relaxed a little in the future. Still, these weekly appointments took a lot of time, If I failed this test, there would be a concern (even though the baby could just be sleeping), and I would have to stay for longer.
I was teaching at the time and told them I had to schedule these in the afternoon although they encouraged me to schedule them during my first teaching period when the baby was usually more active. Like I said before, I was lucky my baby was acrobatic. I never failed one of these time-consuming things. And I had to wonder were they necessary? I would have been okay with even every other week, but weekly?
Interestingly enough experts don’t seem to agree on this procedure for advanced maternal age mothers. Some hospitals do them based on age, and some hospitals don’t. Helpful, I know.
According to High-Risk Pregnancy 101, “although the non-stress test is readily available and used by many providers, it is not really backed up by robust evidence as interpretations can vary by a great extent between providers, and the predictive value (reassurance it provides) is not as good as some of the other tests available.”
I even asked a friend who was an OBGYN about this, and he said that every week non-stress tests just because a patient is 35 seemed excessive … Still, I did what I was told even though my insurance did not even cover all of these weekly tests.
As a mother, I want to do what is best for my children, and I place a lot of trust in my providers, even though I had an inkling that some of these tests were unnecessary. I am also very aware that I am not a doctor. Where I got confused was when the different doctors couldn’t even agree.
I also was told at my 38 week check up that there was a new policy that had been in place for all of the mothers who were of advanced maternal age, and I needed to have a full profile done that would take a couple of hours.
“Is this really necessary?” I asked. Especially since it apparently hadn’t been until up to two weeks ago.
Of course, I received another yes.
And so I went to this appointment too. When I arrived at the imaging facility, the nurse asked why I was having the profile done, which consisted of another detailed ultrasound, even though I already had an anatomy one and a couple of others that all looked wonderful. She asked if there had been risk factors, etc. I could only respond, “I am 35.”
She didn’t respond. It appeared she was not even familiar with this new “necessary” procedure.
I was 38 weeks pregnant. Why the heck was I even here, I wondered. But again, I did it because I was told and then received a bill for almost $300!
Again, I will pay anything if I think it is necessary for the health of my child, but at 38 weeks, what was the point of another ultrasound? I was going to have this baby, just leave me alone already and let me have it. That is the way I felt at the end.
It was then reminded of one of my earlier doctor appointments. It was after I had found out that everything with my genetic screening test had come back perfectly. According to the results, I had one healthy baby boy.
Of course, this made me ecstatic because I had been reminded endless times of how I was a high-risk pregnancy, but the results were clear, and I was happy.
This, unfortunately, did not last long. A doctor whom I had never met before, sat on her stool and said the following, “I know you received your screening results, and it said that there was nothing wrong, but I want you to know that you are of advanced maternal age, and you could still have a child with issues. The tests do not tell us everything, and you are at risk because of your age, so I want you to be aware.”
Geez! I thought. Is this woman for real? It was at that appointment when I began to question what the point in telling me over and over again that I am of advanced maternal age was?
I was pregnant, and I was going to have that baby, all these reminders were doing were stressing the crap out of me. And what good was constantly telling me that I was of advanced maternal age doing for me? What positive was coming from it?
Honestly, it was just pissing me off and stressing me out.
Since I turned 35, the term advanced maternal age popped up at EVERY appointment. I wanted to throw my shoe at anyone who said it towards the end or beat them to the punch and say, “Yes! I know I am of advanced maternal age!”
One thing’s for sure, I have learned a lot about being of advanced maternal age this year, and I want to be frank and say that I do not have all of the answers about what should and should not be done. However, I do think there needs to be more discussions and education about all of the excessive tests instead of just telling a woman she needs them because she is of advanced maternal age.
I also think that age is just one of many factors, and although it should be considered, I think that a pregnant woman should be viewed as a whole and there should be a more individualistic approach. Lastly, just tell pregnant women who are age 35 and over that they are of advanced maternal age once. Seriously, take us into your office, give us some details, introduce the term, and be done with it.
Believe me, we women of advanced maternal age only need to hear it once.