So what can my neighbor expect since she is expecting at the age of forty-seven? She and her husband have one child. He is eight-years-old so she was no spring chicken when they brought him into the world. It took years of fertility treatments and several miscarriages before the couple was finally blessed with a healthy baby boy. From what she told me they were not even trying for another. In fact, she suffered a miscarriage last year. I remember while she was convalescing. I would visit with pots of soup and plates of cake and pans of roasted chicken. Now that she has maintained her pregnancy for four months, she felt it was safe to break the good news to her nosey neighbor who thought she had gained a few pounds and wanted to know what was up.
The two of us have been neighbors for years. I have come to consider her not just a neighbor but also a very good friend. Naturally, although extremely happy for her and her family, I am also concerned for her health and well-being. Over several cups of herbal tea, we had some girl time and discussed, like girls do, all the intimate details of pregnancy and the added risks because of her age.
She said one thing the doctor is on the lookout for is if she develops cardiomyopathy. Because of her age and the fact that she is not in tip-top physical condition, she is at risk for developing this potentially fatal condition. One symptom, shortness of breath, occurs after the heart muscle weakens to the point it cannot efficiently circulate blood and fluid begins to enter the lungs. Such a prospect horrified me but my friend assured me that it is not extremely common. Out of about 1,300 middle age pregnancies annually, only about a single woman will present with the condition. Whew. A bit of a relief but I still looked at her sideways with concern.
She assured me that her age is really no big deal. It seems women are having children later in life than ever before. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that over 100,000 women in my neighbor’s age group became pregnant as compared to a little over 7,000 women of that same age group in 1968, the year my friend was born. I raise my eyebrows at this fact.
I don’t find this surprising. More and more women are pursuing careers rather than marriage while young. Often, marriage and creating a family doesn’t become a priority until well into their thirties. Then, the grim reality of fertility issues has to be addressed. The result is that it is not uncommon for women in their mid-forties, like my friend, or women even older, to finally begin conceiving.
Because fertility drugs are often used, multiple births are common. This also means recorded births to middle age women are often associated with lower than average birth weights. This affects newborn health not only at the immediate time of birth, but affects development throughout the child’s life.
So, when considering a late in life pregnancy, the risk is not only on the mama. Think it through and do your best to get yourself to your strongest, healthiest condition, and hope for a good neighbor who will cook and bake and visit and make you go on walks.