Older mums: Pregnancy over 40
More women are having babies later in life, sometimes through choice, sometimes through circumstance. We meet three women over 40 who enjoyed healthy pregnancies and had lovely babies!
More than half of babies in the UK are born to mums between the ages of 25 and 34, but things are changing. The website www.mothers35plus.co.uk reports that the fastest increase in birth rate in recent years has been to women aged 40 and over, ‘by over 6%, from 11.5 per 1,000 women aged 40-44 in 2005, to 12.2 in 2006’.
But at 40, chances of conceiving are reduced to about 40%, dropping dramatically to 5% by your mid-40s. However, as our readers’ stories show, it’s not all doom and gloom and nature will often take its course. There may be some hiccups along the way, but older women can, and do, have healthy babies…
‘At 43, I wanted another child’
Cathy Bugler, 53, is mother to Daniel, 15, and Katie, eight. She was 45 when she gave birth to Katie. She’s married to Denis and they live in Hertfordshire.
‘I was 38 when I had Daniel and felt very lucky and blessed to have had no problems and a straightforward birth. After Dan was born, it seemed many of the mums in the postnatal group were pregnant again very quickly. I wanted to make the most of my baby and I was working part-time so I didn’t think I’d try to get pregnant again too early. But by the time Daniel went to school I realised time was going by quickly. I was 43 and as I hadn’t conceived, I thought a check-up at the doctor’s would be a good idea.
‘The GP was great. He didn’t bat an eyelid when I told him I was thinking about having another baby. I had some blood tests to check I was still ovulating, and a scan revealed a blockage. I then had a small operation and was told all was well.
‘A month later, I was pregnant! The doctors and midwives were brilliant. Nobody ever considered my age to be a problem. I had a scan at nine weeks and a nuchal scan (where the risk of Down’s Syndrome is assessed). I was told the chance was one in 60, but given my age, I was reassured and relaxed into the pregnancy.
‘If anything, the second pregnancy was more straightforward than my first. Once Katie was born, I decided to stop work. I’d worked from the day I finished my degree and had a very fulfilling career. I’d been a teacher, and gone on to work for a charity. I had travelled, been on TV and radio and worked long hours. I’d gone to the trouble of going to the GP to make sure I got pregnant and I wanted to be there for Dan – who was then six – as we had no idea how he would cope with a new baby in the house.
‘As it turned out, he coped brilliantly. And the six-and-a-half-year age gap seems smaller now they’re both at school. I feel very lucky to have been blessed with two healthy, happy children and to have had such trouble-free pregnancies and births.’
‘I took a gamble with my fertility’
Nicola McConnell, 44, is a journalist and mother to Oliver, 15 months. She’s married to Ian Kell and they live in London.
‘I’d been quite blasé about the whole baby thing. I’ve never accepted how old I am. And in my mid- to late-30s, I was enjoying life, going out with friends, working and travelling. I was 33 when I married Ian and as life went on we’d begun to wonder if we were meant to be parents.
‘Then, in my late thirties, I realised time was running out if we were going to have a baby. As soon as we’d made the decision we were determined, although I was 39
before we started trying. I have a phobia of vomiting and I wanted to try to overcome it with therapy before becoming pregnant.
‘Unfortunately, things didn’t go to plan and I had recurrent miscarriages – five in total. I was amazed to find I was hit by an overwhelming maternal feeling with each pregnancy. When I was younger I never used to consider myself particularly maternal.
‘I wanted to understand why I was having the miscarriages. Miscarriage is an area that’s under-researched. It’s very easy to dismiss the problems as age-related and put miscarriages down to structural problems (chromosomal abnormalities).
‘After seeing a few consultants, we eventually found a great obstetrician and gynaecologist, Rami Atalla, who worked out what the problem was and prescribed Clexane, a blood thinner, and prednisolone steroids. This time when I fell pregnant, I felt more reassured because we were trying something new.
‘Because of my history, I had lots of scans very early on. In the past, when I’d miscarried at six to nine weeks, this had been very hard, as I’d seen my baby. I was nervous, but the pregnancy went well, and ironically, I had no morning sickness.
‘By the time Oliver was born, I was totally ready for motherhood. We’d spent time and money on research and consultations and I was ready for a career break.
‘At the six-week postnatal appointment, I was asked if I was thinking about having another baby. At the time, the answer was an emphatic “no”. I really don’t know how women can think about having another baby in the first year, but now, Oliver is 15 months old and we’re thinking another child might be nice – both for us and for Oliver to have a little brother or sister.
‘I’m 44 and I know my chances are not as good as younger mums. We’ve already decided we won’t go down the IVF route – we’d rather let nature take its course. But we’re philosophical too, and we know that if it doesn’t happen we’re very fortunate to have Oliver.
‘I have friends who started the menopause at 38. I took a gamble with my fertility, and with hindsight, I wouldn’t have left it quite so late to start trying for children. I was very lucky, but I know that it’s not always so straightforward for everyone.’
‘I gave up trying for a baby at 40’
Sue Lloyd, 50, is a nutrition consultant and dietician from London. She gave birth to William, now six, in 2005, when she was 43
‘I first married when I was 30. For 10 years, my husband and I tried to get pregnant and had resorted to intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). I had confirmed pregnancies, but sadly I couldn’t stay pregnant. I had two miscarriages including one at 16 weeks.
‘By the time I hit 40, I was just divorced and I decided that was it, I wasn’t going to have children. I resolved I would have a happy and fulfilling life and I would move on.
‘Just two years later, I met Andrew. I told him straightaway, “We’ll never get married and we’ll never have children”. Within six months we were getting married and I was pregnant.
‘When I fell pregnant I was at the top of my game, working as the public health nutrition adviser to the Wales Centre for Health. I was used to long hours and working hard, but I had been feeling tired.
‘It was Andrew who suggested that I might be pregnant. I didn’t think it could happen to me, and began wondering whether my hormonal feelings were signs that I was moving into the menopause.
‘We were both so pleased. Andrew, already a father of two children, then aged 12 and six, was keen to have more children. I whooped for joy and jumped up and down when the test revealed a positive result.
‘There was a minor setback when I bled at six weeks and was reminded of my previous miscarriages, but I stayed calm and positive and the care I got was brilliant. There were lots of early scans and constant reassurance that all was well.
‘My life had transformed. Andrew was offered a job at the Science Museum in London, so we had the perfect opportunity to move. I didn’t worry about my age and I never felt like the old mum at antenatal appointments as I was in good company with lots of older mums.
‘I felt great when I was pregnant and the birth was straightforward. The scientist in me couldn’t resist checking out the placenta after the birth and I’m pleased to report it was a healthy one!
‘When William was just one, I set up my business, which took off immediately and within a few months we were producing our own products, such as Labelwise (www.nutritionandwellbeing.co.uk/labelwise), a free online service which helps consumers decipher food labels. Looking back, I’m not quite sure how I managed it all – but I was lucky to have excellent full-time childcare for William.
‘There are so many advantages to being an older mum. For one, we’re financially secure and perhaps most important of all, we know what a blessing William is. He’s so wanted and we feel very lucky to have him.’
IVF: An Emotional Companion by Brigid Moss (Collins, £12.99)
Brigid Moss is an older mum for whom pregnancy didn’t work out second time around. ‘I had my first child, Patrick, through IVF when I was 37,’ she says. ‘But after a late miscarriage and a further two failed attempts, my husband and I took stock and decided to be thankful for Patrick.’
In her book she describes her own experiences, both positive and negative, and also tells the stories of 22 other women who have had IVF treatment for different reasons and to varying levels of success. For more information and help, visit www.moretolife.co.uk – a support group for those who are involuntarily childless.