What to REALLY Expect – Panel for Expectant Moms

Bump_Club_LogoOn May 22nd, I had the pleasure of being on a panel with a distinguished group of speakers, all of whom support women with childbirth, which was hosted by the Bump Club, a fast-growing group for expectant and new moms in Austin, Chicago and Minneapolis. Other speakers on our panel included Wendy Howard, NR, BSN, a labor and delivery nurse, Cheryl Sipowski, MS, LPC, a counselor for couples and individuals, and Dawn Gibson, MSW who supports mothers with individual mind-body coaching.

 

Here’s what I told the Austin audience:

It was through conversations with other mothers that I realized that many women want to share their experiences with fertility, pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum in a supportive environment.

I started telling my story of a first pregnancy and childbirth at age 40 about 5 years ago to close friends and family. There was no Bump Club or other local group for new “older” mothers. I was pretty much on my own.

Fortunately since February 2011, I’ve owned a children’s and maternity store called Little Green Beans, which helped me a lot through my last pregnancy (from both a support and baby gear acquisition perspective).

  • I delivered a healthy baby boy at age 43 at 11 months. He is my third (and last) child.
  • My middle child, a daughter was adopted from foster care locally in 2012. She has been mine and my husband’s to raise since she was 5 days old. She’s now 2 years and 9 months old and resembles Dora The Explorer in her looks and personality.

My conversations with other women lead to a lot introspection in 2011 and early 2012, the writing down of my stories and then we birthed this website in April 2012.

The project was a feature story in May in Austin Woman Magazine and many of our stories have been featured nationally, including on BlogHer Moms this week.

Now what to REALLY Expect for the upcoming months…

You may or may not be surprised to know that the range of pregnancy experience is broad among women with no significant reproductive issues nor chronic, pre-existing health conditions. Age is not the best standard by which to judge who will have a “Text Book Pregnancy” and who will face barriers with fertility, pregnancy, childbirth and post partum.

Each of us will have a different set of experiences during each pregnancy.

A DISCLAIMER I need to share, like the one I include on all written of my materials: You should not rely on the information mentioned tonight as an alternative to obtaining specific medical advice from your own doctor or healthcare provider. Any information we share is NOT intended to be used for any medical diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

We could devote one or more sessions to talk about the challenges of getting pregnant after 35 – I believe you are all pregnant – so we will push forward.

If you will deliver after age 35, you may elect for additional prenatal and/or genetic testing before or during your pregnancy, one or more ultrasounds, or opt to be under the care of a perinatologist, especially if health problems arise that put you at risk. 

Women who are older than age 35 who become pregnant may find increased risk factors, including more genetic abnormalities, gestational diabetes, and hypertension (the most severe is called preeclampsia).

Bed rest and c-sections are prescribed by obstetricians for the most serious cases.

By no means do all or most women over age 35 have these health outcomes.

 The odds are higher however. (On the other hand I, like many women who are over age 35 experienced a very healthy outcome with natural childbirth twice.)

Physicians watch and test for each of the conditions most women anyway. You will each take a test for gestational diabetes and have your blood pressure checked each time you visit your practitioner. Younger women are not immune! They are just called pregnant women. Hopefully none of you will be medical “patients.”

Women who are going to deliver a baby at age 35 or later are pretty uniformly given a stamp of on their medical charts. A first pregnancy at this age is typically observed more closely.

In the U.S. the label is called Advanced Maternal Age. Other names exist overseas like elderly primigravida. I turn our U.S. term on its head – it’s ADVANCED Maternal Age – as in wise older gal.

This website, Advancedmaternalage.org now includes over 80 stories by Advanced Maternal Age women and many expert voices of physicians, psychologists, social workers, dieticians and fitness specialists who can provide support to overcome the top barriers of pregnancy and childbirth after age 35.

There are many alternative medicine options mentioned in my and the other women’s stories:
Prenatal yoga, acupuncture, chiropractic care and even visiting the dental hygienist more often during pregnancy helps many women have healthier outcomes and less medical intervention.

Related to this, I will make a 3 recommendations – good for women of any age, but especially useful for women of Advanced Maternal Age to achieve healthier outcomes.

  1. Hire a Doula. Unless your mother or sister is a healthcare provider and you want them in the delivery room with you, find a birth coach early (like at 20 weeks of gestation) through a referral or the Central Texas Doula Association to help you navigate and find the best path for you. She’ll be an invaluable resource. Mine helped me with preparing for the pain of labor and delivery, reviewed my birth plan before I showed it to my OB, and was the third person to hold my sons after me and my husband.
  2. Consider writing a Birth Plan, stating your wishes for the labor and delivery room. I updated my plan with each pregnancy and it took the place of “standing orders” and many other typical hospital labor and delivery wing practices, such as ongoing fetal monitoring, and preferences for medication or a natural childbirth.
  3. Also, unless you physically cannot do it due to a medical condition, practice Prenatal Yoga at least once per week for 20 or more weeks.
  • It establishes a unique mind-body connection, gives you some exercise and a safe way to stretch, helps prepare you for labor and delivery plus you can make great friends.
  • I still have two close friends from yoga classes and we watch our kids grow together.

From my own experience and listening to so many I’ve learned is that being resourceful comes naturally to many women.

We like to seek out and sort information. My research hypothesis is that the more education we have, the older we are and the more we know about ourselves, the more likely we are to find resources to overcome all types of health barriers – including those about becoming mothers and having a healthy baby.

Our upcoming research with UT Austin will help us prove or disprove this theory and share more about the resources women who are first time mothers of age 35 or older found useful in overcoming barriers to a healthy pregnancy.

So whether you are 25, 35 or 45, there are options and choices to be made.

  • There are local resources for getting the best pregnancy and childbirth outcomes. Make the choices that are best for you, your baby and partner.
  • When faced with a barrier or obstacle, ask questions, seek a second opinion and talk about what’s happening. You might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.

If you have a story or two to share about a later-in-life pregnancy, we would enjoy the chance to talk with you and interview you for my research this summer. Please take our brief survey.

Comments

  1. Nobody told me that I might face back issues and spine discomfort during pregnancy. Luckily for me I have a great prenatal chiropractor in Utah from http://slcchiro.com/. She was my life saver during my pregnancy.

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