Pregnant After 35: Balancing Statistics with the IndividualJohn Cave Osborne
Everyone knows that as a woman ages, her chances of getting pregnant decreases. This scientific fact has proven to be a double-edged sword for me. I was born in 1969, the day after my mom turned 41, so I’ve never put too much stock in broad-sweeping conclusions when it comes to conception as it relates to age.
Yes, I must have put some stock in it. After all, I opted against a vasectomy after my triplets were born despite the fact that neither my wife nor I wanted any more children. Why did I opt against it? Simple. Caroline was 38. And as I stated earlier, everyone knows that as a woman ages, her chances of getting pregnant decreases. Throw in the fact that Caroline had needed the help of hormone shots to conceive our other four children? We figured we were good to go.
What’s that saying about making God laugh? Something about telling Him your plans?
So here we are. Expecting our fifth child just days before my wife turns 42. So much for statistics. Now that it we’re expecting, I’d love to tell you that my wife and I are cool as cucumbers over here. But we’re not. Thanks, once again, to statistics.
Heather Turgeon wrote a fantastic feature on Babble earlier this week entitled “Getting Pregnant After 35: The Truth About Age and Women’s Fertility.” In it, not only did Heather cite all the usual stats pertaining to getting pregnant after 35, but she also addressed the very thing that currently has my wife and me shaking in our boots: the increased percentages of complications associated with pregnancies after age 35. She writes:
“We start a slow fertility decline in our 20s, and it gains momentum into our 40s, when the outlook is the least rosy. Studies suggest that a healthy 30-year-old woman trying for a baby has about a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant each month. At 40, that number shrinks to 5 percent (though if she tries for an entire year, her chance is better than 40 percent.)
Add to it that the rate of miscarriage is higher in our 30s, as is the chance of having a baby with a genetic abnormality. A baby of a mom at age 25 has a 1 in 1,300 chance of having Downs syndrome (caused by faulty cell division that leaves baby with three instead of two copies of chromosome number 21). At 30, the chances are 1 in 1,000; at 35 its 1 in 400; and at 45, 1 in 35.
I bet you’d never guess from the above paragraphs that I came away from Heather’s essay with a sense of peace, would you? Well I did. Thanks to these words:
On the other hand…part of the post-35 baby anxiety comes from our tendency to personalize health statistics…The reality is that 35 is not a magic number. Your personal biology is unique, and it has an individual plan laid out for you. For good or ill, this could swing either way…
Also, our health habits play into pregnancy, and… we actually have control over this part. One of the reasons fertility goes down and pregnancy risks go up with age is that, as we get older, we’re more likely to see the accumulated effects of bad practices like smoking or an unhealthy diet and also to have our overall health docked by conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. When we take care of ourselves, we’re also staying just a bit ahead of the numbers.
I’m a guy who has lived on both sides of these statistics. And now that I’m standing alongside my wife on the scary side, it’s hard not to fear the worst. But in her essay, Heather delivers the perfect mix of scientific fact and human sensibility. My wife is both part of a demographic as well as a unique entity. The script may be out there, but that doesn’t mean that she’ll act it out in any predictable way. She may. But she may not.
Instead of painting the devil on the wall, I suspect that my wife and I will just keep ambling along, hand in hand, our minds and heart filled with a hopeful brand of faith. As far as what may happen in the future? We certainly don’t profess to know.
What’s that saying again about making God laugh?
If pregnancy is at all within the realm of possibility for you, and you’re anywhere near 35 or older, I strongly recommend you give Heather’s piece a read by clicking HERE.