Does Age Really Matter?
What you need to know about pregnancy in your 20s, 30s and 40s.
IF YOU’RE 40-plus
YOUR BODY} Births to mothers 40 and older more than doubled between 1990 and 2008, from 50,245 to 113,576. Still, nearly one-third of women older than 40 will struggle with infertility. And rates of both pre-existing and gestational diabetes are three to six times higher. But waiting offers a silver lining: Women who have their first baby at 40 or older live longer on average, likely a result of enhanced access to medical care and financial stability.
According to fitness expert Brin, the average 40-year-old will have gained 10 pounds of fat and lost 5 pounds of muscle since turning 30. “That slows your metabolism and makes it harder to bounce back after pregnancy,” she says. Maintain a regular exercise regimen during and after pregnancy and practice Kegels to counter age- and weight-related pregnancy complications, such as gestational diabetes, urinary incontinence and uterine prolapse. Join a fitness center with day care and remember: Lifting children is a weight-bearing exercise! Gregory notes that many of these moms will enter menopause when their child is a teen—a double hor- monal whammy that “might strike fear into a few hearts,” she says.
THE BABY} Half of these preg- nancies will end in miscarriage, and the risk of chromosomal abnormalities nearly doubles from age 35 to 40 (it’s 1 in 60 at age 40; 1 in 40 at age 42). Eldercare will be a responsibility for most children of older parents. Lighten your own kids’ future load by purchasing long-term health care insurance for yourself, and do everything you can to stay healthy.
YOUR MATURITY LEVEL} New moms over age 40 often fully embody the “I can have it all— serially” philosophy. “They feel like they’ve done the things they wanted—whether that’s climbing Mount Everest, practicing law or partying—before having kids,” Gregory says. They report feeling more comfortable in their own skin and having more patience than they did in their 20s or 30s. Lusty recalls the week her second child was born, when she was 41: “My husband had the stomach flu and was quarantined. My grandmother died, I had no help, and both the baby and my 3-year-old were crying. I just laughed and thought, ‘I can do this.’ I don’t know if I would’ve had that sense of calmness when I was younger.”
YOUR CAREER AND FINANCES} By this point, hopefully, you’ve saved enough money that you can afford to hire help. Women in their 40s excel at time management, Glazer says, equipping them to effectively juggle work and parenthood. Data indicate that women who wait to become moms are more likely than others to keep working because they’ve got the clout to negotiate flexible hours as well as a decent pay grade. But considering you’ve already been working for 20-plus years, you may feel ready to dial back a bit at work, quit working entirely for a while or even explore new career options.
YOUR RELATIONSHIPS} According to Gregory’s research, older working moms often feel more isolated in the suburbs, where many women are younger and tend to stay home with their children. Consider this if you decide to move, or consider joining a Later Moms support group. Be prepared to face some criticism along the lines of, “But you’ll be 60 when she’s in college!” “Ignore them,” Bennett advises. Instead, cultivate the attitude, “We’ll love this child so much and we’ll launch her into the future with other loving, caring people.” Ensure that your child will be cared for after you are gone by updating your will, establishing a trust fund and handpicking mentors in advance. “If you’re in a position to love that child and give her what she needs, go for it and don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible or you shouldn’t,” Bennett says.