What I Learned from Being Pregnant in My 40s
Leslie discusses how she approached pregnancy at age 42.
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Motherhood wasn’t always a top priority for Leslie. With a successful law career, family nearby, and lots of friends, she was happy with how things were.
Her perspective changed when she met her partner Aaron. After two years of dating, they decided to try for a baby – but being in their early 40s, they didn’t expect it to be easy.
From that moment on, Leslie’s experience was full of surprises. She shares her story with ACOG in this edited interview.
ACOG: Where does this story start, for you?
Leslie: I was never one of those people who said, “I have to have a kid, I have to be a mom.” I was very content with the way my life was.
And then I met Aaron, who’s now my fiancé. I had just turned 40, and he was 41. We just started talking about it. He was very used to being around a lot of kids – and as an only child, I didn’t grow up with any of that.
Aaron is the only person I would have considered doing this with. I joke that he’s more maternal than I am. So we said, “OK, let’s give it a shot. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, we’ll still have a great life.”
ACOG: Did you have any trouble getting pregnant?
Leslie: I completely expected that I would not be able to get pregnant easily. I had frozen my eggs when I was 37, just because I didn’t know the direction my life would take. So that was our back-up plan. We decided we would try on our own for 6 months, and then maybe we’d try with the frozen eggs.
But we were very lucky, and I got pregnant on the first try. We found out over Thanksgiving weekend in 2017. Aaron was like, “Are you excited? I can’t tell!” And I totally was, but I was also just in utter shock.
ACOG: What concerns did you have about being pregnant over 40?
Leslie: We were definitely concerned about the possibility of genetic defects. We knew the risk of having a baby with a birth defect gets higher as you get older. But early on, we had genetic testing for chromosomal abnormalities – starting with a blood panel screening at 12 weeks.
While that test didn’t uncover anything concerning, I decided, due to my age, to have an amniocentesis at 16 weeks. This was a big decision, and I spoke extensively with the genetic counselor to think through it. Ultimately, I did it for the peace of mind – and everything came back fine, thank God. I was very grateful that we were forced to talk about those potentially hard choices as part of my prenatal care.
Otherwise, I did the best I could to take care of myself. I took prenatal vitamins and stuck to my usual healthy diet. I planned to exercise regularly too, but to be honest, fatigue usually got in the way.
ACOG: How did your pregnancy go?
I have to admit, I didn’t love being pregnant. I had morning sickness in the first trimester, and then I was just exhausted until the end. I felt very big and swollen. Everything ached.
ACOG: Did you have any complications with delivery?
Leslie: I delivered a healthy baby boy 2 weeks before my due date. I didn’t have any contractions or other early signs, and then one Saturday morning my water broke in a giant gush. They tell you it won’t be like the movies – but it was exactly like that!
Once we got to the hospital, I took oxytocin to induce labor and eventually I got an epidural. I dilated to 10 centimeters and started pushing. They could see the crown of Bailey’s head but no matter what we did, he just wasn’t coming out. They even tried suction, to no avail.
At about 11 pm, the ob-gyn on call recommended a cesarean. I felt really deflated about that after going through all that labor. I felt like I had failed, even though I know I hadn’t. My baby was born healthy and well. And needing a cesarean delivery had nothing to do with my age. That could happen to anybody.
ACOG: What did you learn from this experience?
Leslie: Many women don’t have an easy time getting pregnant at my age, so I don’t want to make this sound like it will apply to everyone. But I didn’t know what my body was capable of until I tried. Women in their 20s can have fertility issues, and then there’s me, getting pregnant on the first try at 42.
I never imagined I would end up with this little family. But now that we have Bailey, I can’t imagine it any other way.
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Published: October 2020
Last reviewed: October 2020
Copyright 2020 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Read copyright and permissions information.
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