Getting pregnant after 30
Don’t let age get in the way of baby making
The craziest cocktail of emotions hit the moment I found out I was pregnant — I was anxious, ecstatic and a little worried about my husband’s reaction. We had decided to wait another two years before trying after all. We were waiting for financial and emotional stability, before bringing a little human into this world and our home. But I was getting pregnant after 30 and it felt like now was the time. Between ‘well-meaning’ relatives subtly reminding us that four years into our marriage was time to start trying, and our previous decision to wait, I felt conflicted.
Of course, I had to take into consideration that the older I got, the more physically taxing pregnancy and raising a child would be on my body. I wasn’t as quick on my feet anymore. And hearing words like ‘geriatric’ pregnancy doesn’t help already-anxious women trying to get pregnant in their 30s. While certain health factors do come into play as you get older, gynaecologists and the range of mothers I spoke to will attest to the fact that the archaic notion of “30 is too old” is just that—an archaic notion.
Even if you’re getting pregnant after 30, Every woman’s journey is different and this correlates to the timing of when, and how they decide to get pregnant. From prepping your body to medical mishaps to look out for, and the best birthing options, read on so you can go forth, and baby make.
Getting pregnant after 30: stage 1
Preparing your body for what’s to come involves adopting healthier habits, getting regular check-ups and banishing the anxiety that seems to plague mommies-to-be even before conception.
Check in down under
Start with a visit to the gynaecologist. “It is a good idea to be on contraceptives before the age of 30 as it saves your eggs. We are born with a fixed number of eggs, a few million, and every time we ovulate, a few hundred eggs die. This is primarily why fertility reduces as you age. So, by the time you are 35-40, the quantity of viable eggs is low. Using a contraceptive will prevent ovulation and save those eggs. If you are planning on getting pregnant after 30, consider freezing your eggs,” says Dr Priti Vyas.
A medical expert can also recommend blood tests (thyroid, complete blood count, sugar, Rubella IgG, thalassemia), multi-vitamins and folic acid. “People are very aware these days, so they come in for a blood test, check if they need to take any vaccinations, get on folic acid,” says Vyas. Folic acid is critically important as it helps in building haemoglobin, and folic acid deficiency in the mum could lead to the foetus having a neural tube defect (birth defect which can affect the brain, spine and spinal cord).
Photo: Steven Pahel/ Unsplash
Go back to the basics
It’s time to heed your grandmother’s advice if you’re getting pregnant after 30. Eat healthier, work out and give up drinking and smoking. “Alcohol, and smoking especially, affects the egg quality,” says Vyas. It’s advised that you quit smoking at least three months before trying to get pregnant.
“Eat healthy, exercise well and continue normal activities at work, or at home, till the day you go into labour,” says Dr Gayatri Rao, gynaecologist and obstetrician. Don’t overdose on junk food and keep salty and sugary foods to a minimum. This boils down to: nothing packaged and sticking to ghar ka khaana—through your pregnancy. I worked until one week before I delivered—it kept me on my really swollen toes and I wouldn’t change a thing. I also went for prenatal yoga classes three times a week and walked as much as I could.
Make sure you get a good DEAL
As Rujuta Diwekar highlights in her book Pregnancy Notes: Before, During and After, “The big DEAL—our diet, exercise, activity and lifestyle (alcohol, smoking, stress, sleep) is making us fatter than what our mothers were when they were our age, and more prone to this condition of diabesity. It is the marriage of diabetes and obesity, and we are getting there through insulin resistance.” Pay special attention to diet—Diwekar recommends curd, set at home (for a dose of gut-friendly bacteria), and a chutney or pickle to help your body assimilate Vitamin B12.
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Track your cycle using a period calendar app like Flo, Clue or Ovia, to keep tabs on ovulation and menstruation. “I used to be one of those clueless people who never had the right answer when asked about my last period. Using an app simplified that. Since I was already 31, with a long history of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and diagnosed with hypertension, it really helped to know my ‘fertile time’. I got pregnant within a month of trying thanks to it,” says Mrinali Maitra, a 34-year-old mother to a two-year-old.
Explore your options
“The number of women freezing their eggs isn’t huge, but they are on the rise. A lot of single women are doing it as well. It’s a great option for those planning pregnancies after 35 years of age,” says Dr. Vyas.
A duration of infertility of three years or longer is when invitro fertilization (IVF) may be considered. If you are past 36 then IVF may be needed earlier than the 3 years but you won’t necessarily need it to get pregnant in your 30s. Prachi R Jariwala, a classical dancer and art historian married at 38 and conceived naturally within a year. “In fact, I approached a doctor because I had not conceived even after eight to nine months of trying and that’s when I discovered that I was already pregnant,” she says.
Don’t worry, be happy
Let a doctor and mom to a three-year-old put your overthinking millennial mind to rest. “With the level of ante-natal and post-natal care available nowadays, getting pregnant in your 30s is not a big deal. Strictly medically speaking, it is still classified as the borderline age for high-risk pregnancies because of the deteriorating ovum quality and risk of chromosomal disorders (detected easily via tests). So, feel free to get pregnant in your 30s if you want.” says Simontini Patra Banerjee.
Baby baking when you’re pregnant in your 30s
As your body changes, so do your health concerns and medical red flags. Here’s what to expect when you’re expecting
Risks to the baby
Risks exist even pre-30 but post, there is a higher risk of the child being diagnosed with congenital anomalies and genetic disorders. “The risk is co-related to the mother’s age— the higher the mother’s age, higher is the risk of the baby having Down’s Syndrome,” says Vyas.
While there are many factors involved in developing placenta previa or low-lying placenta, where the cervix covers part of the uterus during pregnancy, being above 35 is one of them. Says actor Parineeta Seth who had her child at 35. “I had a low-lying placenta and was on bed rest for 3.5 months with my legs raised up. Luckily, everything went well,” she says. It is not an uncommon risk either. “My mother had low-lying placenta and she was only 22 when she had me, 3-weeks premature,” says Maitra.
The same ‘old’ feeling
“Elderly gravida is simply the medical term for a patient over 35.” says Gayatri Rao. But as you get older, high blood pressure, diabetes, and issues related to even labour may arise, says Vyas. “I was marked as geriatric primigravida in one of my tests at 32. I was feeling quite out of sorts after that test but don’t let the medical classification scare you,” says Maitra.
“For 35-plus women, the incidence of diabetes, hypertension and other medical complications increases,” Rao says. This reduces the chances of opting for a normal delivery. “If the mother has high blood pressure, borderline diabetes or frank diabetes during pregnancy, it impacts the child. It increases the risk of an underweight or overweight baby and even pre-term deliveries,” says Vyas.
My pregnancy went off relatively smoothly, barring the one time I was hospitalised for a bad case of morning sickness. Doctors agree that there may be a higher correlation of pregnancy-induced vomiting among older moms-to-be. But there’s really no escaping this no matter how old you are—you can only wish you’re among the lucky few who can enjoy (and retain) food.
Hypothyroidism is an easily manageable complication that may arise if you’re pregnant in your 30s—it did for me. I took my medication in time, continued it for a year post-delivery and my levels are now back to normal. Another mother I know had to stay on the medication even after two years of delivery.
There are several nerve-wracking tests and sonograms that you will have to undergo to check the viability of the baby. The sonography in the early months of the pregnancy (6-9 weeks) checks the foetal heartbeat and that the fertilised egg is in the uterus, implanted in the uterine lining as opposed to outside the uterus (ectopic pregnancy), which is life threatening.
A sonography in the 5th month checks that the organs are well-formed. Th one I remember being really nervous for was the 7-8th month sonography, that traces the growth of the baby and the blood flow. Luckily I came out smiling with a copy of the ultrasound video where my little one was grinning, holding up on his finger—it felt like a warning ‘You better watch out. I am going to get you’.
Getting pregnant after 30: birthing options
Everyone and their grandmother has an opinion on deliveries, like they did on my C-section. I heard everything from ‘maybe she did not exercise enough’ to ‘maybe she was overworked.’ Yes, I had a tough first day and night. I was exhausted, feverish and couldn’t even get up to pick my baby. But by the next day, I was on my feet, doing everything I wanted. Ignore the naysayers. Only your body, baby and baby doctor can decide what delivery works best.
Hear it from the docs. “Everyone is meant to deliver normally unless there is an indication for an elective section like a breech presentation or CPD (cephalo pelvic disproportion). Age is not the only determining factor for delivery,” says Rao. “One of the coolest mom heroes I met was in the hospital. She was 40, had delivered her baby normally in the morning and walked down two floors to nurse her baby,” says Maitra.
If you are diabetic, hypertensive or have other medical complications like over or underactive thyroid glands, C-sections are suggested to minimise risks. “Even if there is a chance of a normal delivery, I have a lot of patients who are now willing opting for a C-section. In fact some of them bring it up on their first visit,” points out Vyas.
This may be necessary even if you think everything is going fine. I had to go in for an emergency C-section a week past my due date because my little one thought my womb was the perfect place to pass meconium stool (really gross stool that occurs when the baby swallows amniotic fluid, intestinal epithelial cells, mucus, bile and all manner of things). I do not think he learnt the concept of not to poo where you eat, while in my womb.
Looking to get pregnant soon after your first? The World Health Organization recommends an 18 to 24-month gap between pregnancies. Sometimes even a year is sufficient for tissue healing and readiness but only you and your doctor get to decide that. In fact, things might be easier the second time around. Shibani Deshpande, had her second child at 34 says, “When Anayaa, my daughter, was born I was anxious and overwhelmed about everything. But I felt a lot more sorted and things seemed more manageable with Kabir, who came 3 and a half years after,” she says
The biggest learning for women planning on getting pregnant after 30? Stress is the enemy. If you could handle bad guys in the boardroom, you can handle a baby. Or two. You’ve got this covered.