I was 36 years old when I became pregnant with my first son, and the term Advanced Maternal Age had never entered my world before. Why would it? As a single woman, and then a married woman with no children, there would be no reason for me to know the meaning behind those words.
But in this country, becoming pregnant at 36 with a baby due after I was to turn 37, Advanced Maternal Age became my identity for 40+ weeks.
Advanced Maternal Age – what does it really mean? Well, in America, if you are having your baby after the age of 37, it means more tests and doctor visits, as well as discussions about genetic abnormalities and choices to make if any of those abnormalities were to be discovered. It means non-stress tests and sonograms every week beyond a certain point in the pregnancy. It means that a lot more medical attention is paid to the development of your baby.
At the time of my first pregnancy, it meant making the decision to have an amniocentesis – a decision that was made based on an earlier blood test and sonogram that indicated a possible elevation in the risks for certain birth defects.
In case you are wondering, I was a mess throughout this process with my first child.
Thankfully we had a wonderful doctor at the hospital who was also a geneticist. He talked me off of a ledge more than once about all of the information I was being bombarded with, and also performed the amniocentesis. He called me with the results (all normal) and subsequently had to perform both of my D&Cs when I miscarried three years later.
He also told us that if we lived in Canada, I wouldn’t be considered at any risk until at least the age of 40 and that in America, they begin the process early.
Fast forward to a few months after my 40th birthday when I became pregnant with my second son. This time around I was due a few weeks after I was to turn 41, so you can imagine that the label of Advanced Maternal Age really came into play!
Only in the few years since I had become pregnant, a new blood test was created and approved. A blood test that would take the place of the amniocentesis and carried none of the risks of having a needle inserted into your placenta. A blood test that would screen for the same things, and be able to tell the sex of the baby (which we chose to find out both times).
This time around, I was much calmer.
I had been through the Advanced Maternal Age rodeo once before and knew how to take the information in stride.
I knew what was important, and what was just oversharing by my doctors. I went to my non-stress tests excited that I had the chance to see another sonogram of my baby. I continued my prenatal yoga as I had done with my first pregnancy, never once feeling like I was the old pregnant lady who didn’t fit into the mommy scene.
I also knew the label Advanced Maternal Age just for what it was, a label. While it may have stayed with me through my pregnancy and called for closer attention to be paid to my son’s prenatal development, I learned to look past the words and enjoy my pregnancy until the end.