Advanced Maternal Age: Questions for Your Doctor
When I had my surprise pregnancy at age 42, I had lots of questions. The first of which was “How in the world did this happen?” I mean, I knew how it happened, but really how? (Hint: Always take your birth control like you’re supposed to).
Adjusting to the idea of a baby took so much mental energy, I hardly processed the “advanced maternal age” issues I might encounter.
My two previous pregnancies were about as perfect as I could have asked for. I have often half-joked that if I’d known how physically good I was at having babies, I would have been a surrogate mother and made some money at it.
But I had waited to have my first child until I was 29 and my second at 31. At that point, not many people people would have beaten down my door for me to have their baby.
After the initial shock wore off (actually, it hasn’t completely gone away even now that she’s eight), I had to call the doctor’s office and start prenatal care.
My memory may not be accurate, but I swear on that first phone call when they asked my date of birth there was a slight pause from the receptionist as she calculated my age. Okay, that probably didn’t happen, but it sure felt like it.
Advanced Maternal Age
Questions for your doctor
So, if you have to make one of those appointments for your first prenatal check up with an advanced maternal age pregnancy, here’s a list of questions to ask the doctor on your first visit. Preparing yourself for the medical processes will help alleviate some stress from worrying about yourself and your baby.
Advanced Maternal Age: Questions for Your Doctor
Disclosure: I am not a medical professional nor do I have any medical training. These questions are recommended as a starting point for a conversation with your doctor, not medical advice. Here is a PDF you can print to take with you to your appointment.
What are the main differences you expect in an advanced maternal age pregnancy?
Before you share all the scary stories you found online, ask your doctor to cut to the chase about what crosses their mind when they have an advanced maternal age patient. This is a way for you to find out general information and also to discover your doctor’s experience level with this pregnancy demographic.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions, but also listen closely. Listen for the tone of their voice and attitude. You want a doctor who supports you and reassures you through the upcoming months.
Use this opportunity to make sure the fit of this relationship works for you. You deserve a medical professional you trust and like. After all, you’ll be seeing them frequently for awhile. Hopefully no more than in a younger pregnancy, but still, that’s often.
What signs and symptoms do you watch for that concern you?
Ask your doctor what signs and symptoms you should watch for and what to do if you have them.
When should you call the office to make an appointment? Is there a nurse line to contact? What would necessitate a trip to the ER?
Arm yourself with information to fight off fears that arise when you start to worry about symptoms you’re experiencing. Better to have the information ahead of time than wonder what to do when something happens.
What tests can you expect and when?
Older pregnant women face a different testing schedule than younger ones. And some of these tests are fraught with potentially heart wrenching decisions.
Find out as soon as possible the tests your doctor recommends and the ones considered optional. Then start your research process to determine your approach to these tests.
You need to inform yourself and your partner about the twists and turns that can be the route of an older pregnancy.
I was fortunate that the only test that presented any difficulty for me was my gestational diabetes diagnosis. And this is a test all pregnant women face, it just has a higher occurrence in older women.
Our daughter did have a small heart beat arrhythmia we had to monitor with more frequent sonograms toward the end of the pregnancy, but again, fortunately this turned out to be nothing of consequence.
Not every pregnancy goes so smoothly, regardless of age. But the fears that comes with potential risks to an unborn child rise as we age. Talk to the doctor early on to help you develop your plan and perspective on the tests you will need.
What exercise do you recommend?
Ask your doctor about any specific physical prohibitions or recommendations for your pregnancy. You want to stay fit and healthy, but you need to do it safely.
And this doesn’t mean taking pregnancy fitness advice from someone you happen to come across online. This means talking to your healthcare provider right away to make sure your exercise routine works for you during this time.
What is your approach delivery?
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I used the Bradley Method and had an easy, natural childbirth experience. Second one was a little tougher, but still made it through without medication. I was determined to do the same with my third child, even later into life.
I found that much had changed in the medical world of childbirth since my first baby in 1996. Doctors and hospitals were much more open to natural approaches to delivering a baby. Unfortunately, the United States still has a higher prevalence of Cesarean births than other countries.
Talk to your doctor right at the beginning about their attitudes toward the type of delivery you want to have.
The medical condition of you and your baby will affect what happens at delivery. But ensure you and your doctor are on the same page when it comes to your delivery so you don’t have any surprises as your due date gets closer.
Make the appointment to get your prenatal care started as soon as possible. Don’t wait to start taking care of yourself and your baby.
And print this set of questions to initiate a conversation that will continue throughout your pregnancy.
Undoubtedly, you’ll have more so keep a running list of things to ask at each visit. The more information you have before you need it, the less you’ll worry when something unexpected happens.
But most importantly, don’t spend your pregnancy worrying.
If you waited a long time for this pregnancy and faced struggles to make your dreams of a baby come true, treasure the experience.
And if this is an unexpected late in life baby, it may likely be the last one, so enjoy feeling those little feet kicking inside of you.