girl kissing mom's pregnant belly.

How I Made My 3rd Pregnancy the Best One Yet

By Claire Gillespie
Reviewed by Alyssa Quimby, M.D.
January 23, 2023

The first time I was pregnant, I was 29. Fast-forward 11 years, and my third baby was on the way.

Because I was 40, my pregnancy was what some (out-of-touch) doctors would call “geriatric.” It doesn’t exactly conjure up an image of a strong, glowing mom-to-be, right? Even worse was the medical term for a person over 35 having a second or third (or fourth) pregnancy: “elderly multigravida.” That one just makes me think of an ancient, gnarly tree. The grandmother in the forest. That’s me.

Luckily, neither of these terms are used often today. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) talks about the risks of pregnancy over the age of 35 (“advanced maternal age”), but offensive terms like “geriatric pregnancy” are not as common.

(If a woman is considered advanced in age at 35, what about a 35-plus man? We don’t ever hear the term “geriatric father-to-be”…but that’s another story.)

The Truth About the Risks

I do understand why age is a factor when it comes to birthing babies. Studies suggest that pregnant people over age 35 may be at higher risk for miscarriage, congenital disorders, and complications like high blood pressure or gestational diabetes.

At the same time, 35 isn’t some cataclysmic benchmark to be approached with panic by once-hopeful parents-to-be. I didn’t go to bed on the eve of my 35th birthday as a healthy person and wake up the next morning in the high-risk category.

Still, there has to be a line drawn somewhere, and ACOG warns that the chances of developing certain conditions or complications that can affect the birthing parent, the fetus, or both starts rising after age 35.

However, this doesn’t mean that getting pregnant at 35 or older means things will go wrong. And in my case, being pregnant in my 40s was easier than it was for me in my 20s or 30s.

What Made It Easier

Naturally, I felt more prepared—I’d already been pregnant twice before. Nothing took me by surprise. I knew my psoriasis would flare and restless legs would wake me up throughout the night from week 30 onward. I knew I’d have a large bump and a small baby because pregnant me carries a lot of water. Bump aside, I knew where I’d gain weight (butt and face).

But even if something had happened to make this pregnancy different from the ones in my 20s and 30s, I felt better equipped to deal with whatever new challenges it brought. The upside of my “advanced maternal age” was many years of experience, a much healthier relationship with my body, and a tried-and-tested mental health management plan.

Because I’d been diagnosed with depression and anxiety in the past, I had additional support during each of my pregnancies, including input from a perinatal psychiatrist. It was great to have the additional support—and it’s important to recognize that people of any age can have health issues that require additional care and attention during pregnancy.

After my first child was born, I plummeted into postpartum depression pretty quickly. Even though I’d lived through periods of depression since I was a teenager, it took me six months to get the help I needed. In my experience, mental health just wasn’t a talking point back then, either during postpartum appointments or at baby groups with other new parents.

Now that I’ve lived another 15 years with fluctuations in my mental health, I talk—and write—about it openly. I’m acutely aware of the warning signs, not just in myself but in others. When I was a first-time mother, I had nobody keeping a close eye on my emotional state. My physical scars? Absolutely. My mental ones? Not so much.

Luckily, it’s not just me who has progressed and changed (for the better, I hope) in the years between my first and my third pregnancies. After my youngest was born, 11 years after my eldest, my mental health was a priority during each postpartum checkup. I felt secure and supported, and that in itself helped to keep me mentally on track.

The difference in mental health support for new parents has changed in recent years, but that doesn’t mean there’s not still more that can be done.

The Best Part of It All

It’s not just about mental health. Pregnant at 40, I was healthier than I’d been at 29 in every way. Exercise and good nutrition were part of my daily life. As I entered my fifth decade, I was stronger and fitter than ever.

I might have had to keep a closer eye on things like blood pressure during my pregnancy at 40 than I did during my earlier pregnancies, but so many other aspects of my life were better. Plus, going through pregnancy in my 20s and then again in my 30s gave me confidence in myself (my body and my mind), which I needed to enjoy the experience much more the third time around.

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