Note: Due to the popularity of this post, I've added to it. Enjoy!
So you're 40, or nearly 40 and you want to have a baby. But you're scared cos…you're almost 40. According to everyone you're Advanced Maternal Age.
I get it. I used to obsess over my fertility too. And yes, when I was pregnant it was considered a geriatric pregnancy (I accepted that fact!) But labels aside, I got pregnant naturally at 40 and again at 42 with two amazingly healthy, full-term babies. So I know you can do it, too!
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Here are a few things I was doing, that I had no idea was priming my body for babies at a later age.
5 steps to take right now:
1. Vitamins! Many of the supplements I was taking for years had a beneficial hand at enabling me to get pregnant naturally at the age of 40 (and older). Note: This is not medical advice. Please get clearance from your medical provider before taking any supplements.
I've taken the Rainbow Light brand of multivitamins for years, and it contains the right amount of folic acid, which is necessary for women to have in their bodies (at least 400 mg) both before and during early pregnancy because it can help prevent neural tube defects, according to the CDC. You can start to take prenatal vitamins if you are planning to get pregnant.
The magnesium supplement is also great in regulating my anxiety. I have been taking this product for years due to my migraines and while pregnant they also were instrumental in maintaining my sanity and keeping pregnancy leg and other muscle cramps at bay.
I tried a few different vitamin D supplements before landing on this one. This one by Nordic Naturals is fantastic. It tastes good and my mood is much better when I take it. Also, if you are wondering, several supplements (magnesium and vitamin D) are not easily absorbed in pill form. This is why the magnesium is in powder form and the vitamin D is a gummy.
2. Surround yourself with positive people. This is an integral part of the whole journey. Here's why…
I was 36-years-old and went to a friend's birthday dinner in D.C. During the dinner, my friend brought up her age and the prospect of having babies. I mentioned that a colleague of mine had her first baby at the Advanced Maternal Age of 40, and her second baby at 42 years old, both naturally.
When I shared this anecdote, the friend scoffed and said something to the effect of “well, that’s not reality and that's not going to happen for any us at this table.” Hmm…And I carried those words with me for years and years to come.
I also had another “friend” who quickly dashed my dreams of even trying for a child by quipping “well you better have $35K cos that's how much it costs to have a baby!”
why positivity matters
Even if that fact is true, you do not need Negative Nancies in your life telling you how things are and aren't. It is not beneficial to you! Not now, not ever. You'll deal with a lot of unsolicited advice and comments from people when you get pregnant. So do yourself a favor and surround yourself with people who have a glass-half-full mentality of life. You will need positivity and serenity when you're pregnant, so better start now!
3. Reduce anxiety. I'm pretty sure if you are on the Internet, scrolling scrolling scrolling, you're feeding your anxiety. You've read all about Advanced Maternal Age pregnancies and all the chromosomal risks that come from a geriatric pregnancy. Stop all that scrolling now, and just…breathe.
To temper the anxious thoughts, I did just that – meditate. I have always meditated, but when I got pregnant, I committed to doing it every day. This app is a wonderful and easy companion that offers both short (I know you've got five minutes to meditate!) and long sessions and talks that address a variety of topics and issues. Seriously, deal with your anxiety. Your mental health is of utmost importance in your pregnancy journey.
Other ways to GET READY FOR A BABY
4. Create a sleep routine. This is not about getting enough sleep now to offset when you are sleep-deprived (cos sadly, you can't bank sleep for later benefits). This section is about the many benefits your body reaps when you go to sleep earlier and sleep for at least 7-8 hours.
Our culture prides the warriors who get by on just a few hours of sleep, which runs counter to studies that have found the health benefits of getting a full night of shut-eye. My bedtime habits were just another coincidental way I was getting ready to have a baby as an older mama.
It's not just about how much, but when YOU SLEEP…
But it's not just about the hours you sleep, but the time you go to bed. Research has found that it is beneficial to have an earlier bedtime because our most optimal sleep occurs in the hours between 8 p.m. and midnight. I had been doing that for years not because of the health aspects of it, but because that was my natural sleep routine. For whatever biological reason, that window of time is when your brain and body have the opportunity to get all the non-REM and REM sleep necessary to function optimally. So get off your screen(s) and get to sleep!
5. Sweat. Ok, I think I might get some pushback on this one, since it's a common refrain for most any problem.
Hear me out: when or if you get pregnant in your 40's, you'll get a lot of unsolicited advice as an Advanced Maternal Age mommy-to-be. Unless you are ordered on bedrest from your medical provider (I never was) you will likely hear from everyone to take easy when it comes to exercise because of your geriatric age. (#SIDENOTE My parents ordered me not to carry the Thanksgiving turkey while I was 11 weeks pregnant, I did so anyway because little did they know that the weights I was lifting at the gym were a lot heavier!) I exercised almost every day of my first pregnancy (at the ripe ole age of 40!) and completed my final workout just two days before going into labor!
#PROTIP: SEPARATE EXERCISE FROM LOSING WEIGHT
The benefits of exercise are numerous, from mental and cardiovascular health, strength to prevent bone deterioration as an older woman and another: if you have a vaginal birth, it's going to take effort and strength and a whole lot of power to get that baby out. It's akin to the training you commit to when you run a marathon. So you have to get your body ready for that effort. Even walking every day is beneficial, and a tremendous hip opener for when it's go time!
Also, if you already have a baby at home, like I did when I was pregnant with our second, I still had to carry him, and take care of him, and manage all of those things in life that require carrying things (grocery shopping, cleaning around the house, etc.) So it makes no sense that exercise is detrimental when pregnant, even as an Advanced Maternal Age person.
Notice, I didn't write a thing about losing weight as a benefit to exercise…because I find that separating movement from thinness makes it more likely that you will stick to the habit. Repeat after me: this is not about burning calories!
I know this journey as an older mother may not feel easy. I do hope that taking these few steps equip you with some semblance of agency during this crazy ride.
So that is it for the 5 steps you can take today to get your body baby ready as an Advanced Maternal Age mommy-to-be!