After sharing my experience of being pregnant at the age of forty ( I turn 41 in November) in my Instagram Stories yesterday and receiving messages from fellow expectant mums my age and older, as well as from those who hope to conceive after forty, I thought it would be best to share my own journey her in long-form.
This post might be a little TMI for some but I truly hope it will be helpful for others.
I suffered a missed miscarriage (when you only discover you’ve lost your baby during a scan) late last year. I’d already had a 7 1/2 week scan that was normal ( a present heartbeat) so I was deeply shocked at 10 1/2 weeks to find the baby had gone.
I was in the tiny 4% who go on to lose a baby after seeing a heartbeat in an early scan.
I was 39 at the time of conception and had conceived quickly (I believe it was the second month of trying) and was of course, devastated and somewhat distrusting of my body at that point as it hadn’t warned me in any way of the loss (which happened around the age of turning 40).
I ended up requiring surgery: an MVA (a manual vacuum aspiration is a way of surgically treating miscarriage when there is pregnancy tissue remaining within the womb. MVA uses a narrow tube to enter and empty the womb using aspiration) after 6 days of what felt like intense labour and blood loss after being administered the pessaries Misoprostol in hospital, which didn’t work.
Physically and emotionally, I wouldn’t wish the pain I endured on anyone. It was an indescribably hard period of my life.
Every medical professional I encountered during that time were so supportivem thankfully: the 2 female surgeons whom encouraged me to try to conceive again after I’d experienced a single period and not wait, the sister on duty who held my hand tightly throughout the procedure and wiped away my tears before, during and afterwards, and my understanding male GP who carried out blood tests usually only offered after 3 losses spanning a FSH test which gives an idea of ovarian reserve and the progesterone test to check ovulation had occurred after day 21 of my cycle. Thanks to my wonderful pal Dr Juliet McGrattan (who was heaven-sent during that period) for reminding me of the details about these tests and for being such a great friend).
I also had my thryoid checked after a nodule was removed from my thyroid a few years beforehand to check if it might be underactive. It wasn’t.
A scan, along with the blood tests showed that my fertility appeared healthy, I was ovulating etc and it showed that I was far from menopause. These factors also alluded to the fact that my eggs were likely to be healthy too (you can only fully test egg health if they’re removed).
My GP even went as far as to say there were no longer any signs of PCOS that I was diagnosed with at 19 and said based on the current results, he wouldn’t have diagnosed that condition in me.
He also stated that he felt the miscarriage wasn’t age-related in my case (it was one of those things and likely to be a chromosonal abnormality) and that I should try to fall pregnant again without fear.
It was reassuring.
I’m deeply grateful that I was held in that way by the front-line medical team I had encountered, for the pastoral, as much as the expert support they’d provided me with, understanding the toll on my mental as well as my physical health and the courage required to give another pregnancy another go.
I actually remember one of the surgeons (who’d encouraged me to take my mask off during surgery, in case I needed gas and air) exclaim that she recognised me and loved my parenting tip videos during lockdown, bless her. It was a surreal but special moment (a human connection) during a heartwrenching time.
I didn’t ovulate in the first month post-surgery which is common (but admittedly worrying at the time), I ovulated the second month post-op and so was ready to try to conceive the following cycle (the March after the procedure in December). Since the op, I’d read the book, It Starts With An Egg and had started taking the following vitamins daily to promote fertility and wellbeing (ask your pharmacist for the approporiate doses which might vary):
- Folic Acid
- Co Enzyme Q10 (my husband also took this along with a multi-vitamin)
- Omega 3 and 6
I only continued with Folic Acid and Vitamin D, and added Iron due to low levels on the recommendation of my doctor, once I’d fallen pregnant. Standard pregnancy multi-vitamins unfortunately made me feel sick in my first trimester but my diet was healthy and varied, and heavy on fruit and veg.
I also removed as many things I deemed unnatural as possible from my home, opting for gentle cleaning products and organic food where I could. I drank filtered water and exercised daily, mostly power-walking around Windsor, with some gentle running on my treadmill, as well as commiting to daily meditation (via the Insight Timer app), approaching my fertility journey as if I were training for a marathon.
I created positive affirmation boards on Pinterest as well as baby boards and kept hopeful (the support of family and friends was immeasurable too), willing this new life into being as best I could.
The first month we tried, we thankfully conceived (I was 40 and 4 months) which was utterly wonderful but equally anxiety-inducing as I was consumed with worry that I might experience loss again.
My Early Pregnancy Clinic were brilliant, inviting me for regular early scans, as was my heroic GP who spent several long phone calls with me, reassuring me all would be well.
Ditto, with the therapy I embarked upon post-miscarriage which helped me work through my fears and has continued to assist me, throughout the pregnancy.
Fast-forward to 34 weeks (today) and I’ve unsurprisingly suffered with some bouts of health anxiety during this time but I’ve also enjoyed each milestone met and feel ready to meet my daughter soon. My consultant would like me to have a C-Section in my 38th week (he informed me by 38 weeks a mother-to-be over the age of 40 is infact 2 weeks ahead medically and birthing after 40 weeks at my age comes with some risks) plus I’ve had 2 previous sections (a traumatic emergency followed by a tranquil elective) so it seems like the right option for me.
On the plus side, doctors have told me that conceiving in your forties when it comes to subsequent pregancies don’t tend to present the same struggles many face with first time pregnancies after the age of 35 where fertility declines, as your body’s memory is so clever. Secondary infertility of course exists but I found it reassuring that most partners find second, third and fourth pregnancies easy.
Either way, speak to your GP, research, read and don’t fear pregnancy in your fourth decade, I actually feel healthier pregnant now than I did at 28 with my first child.
I’m the most active I’ve been in any pregnancy, I haven’t put on very much excess weight-I’m still in my UK (stretchy) size 10 dresses most of the time -and my energy levels are just as high as in my 20s.
Deep breaths, lots of courage and go for it.
I hope this post has been useful. Please do ask me questions in the comments if you have any and I’ll try my utmost to answer them or I’ll direct you to sites that might be of use.
Much love and good luck,
P.S. Your baby isn’t usually the size of a pumpkin at 34 weeks, that’s usually 40 and today I should have brandished a pineapple but I only had pumpkins to hand! Pumpkin and some others along with an olive tree bought from Darling Buds of Windsor (thanks for the discount).
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