When I saw those words GERIATRIC PREGNANCY in my notes it absolutely made my insides cringe when I became a mum for the first time at 29. I was 29. I was young, vibrant, on trend (nearly wrote “trendy” then and really showed my “geriatric” status) which made the words scrawled all over every page of my notes stick in my throat like some ugly word vomit. That was almost 11years ago. I’m a mother of two now and I birthed my second 7months ago (at nearing 39) again I got placed in the “geriatric mother” column when I booked in at the midwife.
I’m mean don’t get me wrong I’m not offended now as I was then, but I can see why some women would be if they were first time mums. I’m perplexed at why they would label anyone over the age of 12 “geriatric”? (Slight exaggeration on the age I know, but it’s the go to number for anyone younger than me).
I certainly did not feel like booking myself into the nearest nursing care home (although today it does sound appealing just to have a break from my loving children-who’s with me?!) when I first saw it in my antenatal notes. To be completely honest, I actually feel the most healthiest, energised, comfortable in my skin and firm on my parental choices this time around, more than ever.
Maybe that’s the key, in my twenties I was consumed with overwhelming anxiety about getting it “right”, you know for the “people” -like I was some Kardashian sister that had the paparazzi following her every move! The countless real geriatrics in hair nets, offering an unwavering amount of advice, that to be honest much has come true, but at the time was somewhat overwhelming in the tampon aisle at the supermarket.
Heading towards 40, I’m more informed in life, I’ve grown a bit in maturity (just about) but more importantly I’m trying to listen to my own maternal instincts more than just grabbing the nearest parenting tip book or the phone for a quick google search. Although, hands up, I’m still guilty of that too, just because I’m a little older doesn’t mean I’m not still as vulnerable like all the other new mums out there.
During every midwife and hospital appointment I was treated with delicate care , I was considered a RISK- like I could self combust at any moment “here she comes the geriatric mother, quick take her vitals before her ovaries wither away” ultimately it made me feel unbelievably anxious that they considered my body was not up to the job due to my age. They listed off every possible complication my pregnancies could have had and asked what age appropriate tests I would be opting for (I did comment to one midwife that I had passed the 11+ grammar school exam, at one routine appointment, it didn’t go down too well) and literally they took every ounce of my blood for a plethora of vials.
Now, I understand they have to “cover all options” so to speak and do the appropriate testing for gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure etc but when you very rarely get the same community midwife at consecutive appointments the anxiety just builds having them explain the same concerns and doing the same tests over and over again.
What I was also asked at majority of appointments was why I had an age gap between my pregnancies?, (it seems they really do like to focus on age). Was the second one an accident? New relationship? I could feel my throat burning up, as I entered into some sort of therapy session with every question I answered.
So, why was I given the geriatric status? -I reached for trusty google again and found the following information:
“Traditionally, a geriatric pregnancy is one that occurs anytime a woman is over the age of 35” according to parent.com, “Fecundability, or the probability of achieving a pregnancy in one menstrual cycle, begins to decline significantly in the early 30s, with a more rapid decline a few years later at about 37 years,” explains Margarita Mercado-Medina, therefore the older you get the less chance you have of conceiving, as there are less eggs that are available. There’s also seems to be no medical evidence to suggest a healthy woman in the 30’s, that eats well, takes her vitamins and leads a healthy lifestyle is no less complications than her counterpart in her twenties.
Ok, I get all that. I understand the heightened medical issues that seem to surround a pregnancy later on in life but what I don’t understand is the medical classification, some NHS Primary care trusts are using the terminology “mothers of advanced maternal age” and I don’t think I prefer to be in that column either. Both just conjure up images of ladies with a blue rinses in flannelette nighties, making their way round the maternity wards.
These days women are choosing to start their families later on in life when they feel more established or more financially secure and so they should be allowed to do so without the stigma being attached. Gone are the days of 1970’s marriages when you were classed as “left on the shelf” in your early twenties. Society has changed, refreshingly for the better, older mums are here to stay but however it’s seems the terminology surrounding women in general, are still stuck in the Middle Ages (no pun intended).
Even at 29 I was financially established, I had my teaching career, marriage, house, all that was left were the 2.4 children, yet I still felt I wasn’t “old enough” to be a mum. Daft I know, looking back I felt like all the actual geriatrics somehow knew better and their judging eyes bore holes into me wherever I went. Is this why women are waiting till later? So they can be more assertive in their parental choices? I certainly know of more assertive mothers who had children at 16 than I was in my 29 years of age.
So it begs the question, does an age label matter when it comes to pregnancy? To answer it bluntly NO. I really don’t think it does.
Personally, I think there should be no labels given, it should reside on the woman’s medical background and any underlying issues she may have on the level of care she may need and not just solely based on her age bracket.
If they really do need a label to scrawl over every page of the notes, then the only label that should be given to a pregnant women is “mother”. No woman should ever be made to feel like utter crap when at her most vulnerable state.
If I’m ever blessed with another I’m going to wear a number badge, like a proud 5 year old celebrating their birthday….. and I shall go forth and wear my badge with pride. *slowly steps off her soap box to take a bow*
Peace and love Olivia xx