“Thirty, flirty and thriving” — that’s what the younger version of actress Jennifer Garner’s character wished for in the 2004 film “13 Going on 30”. If one wishes similarly, marriage and children will take a back seat at 30. Though there are risks attached to late pregnancy, embracing motherhood even at 40 or later is not such a bad idea, say doctors.
Looking at the glamour world, celebrities like Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Celine Dion, Farah Khan and Diana Hayden became doting mothers after hitting 40. But the trend is not restricted to the stars.
“Women opting for pregnancy in their 40s is on the rise, to the extent of about 20 to 30 per cent as compared to previous years. Most of them belong to the upper middle class and are career-oriented women,” Amita Shah, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at Gurugram’s Columbia Asia Hospital, said.
Gursimran Dhaliwal, Consultant, Gynaecology, at Amritsar’s Fortis Escorts Hospital, also agreed, saying, interestingly, that late pregnancies are no more perceived as a “western phenomenon” as “more and more Indian women are opting for it”.
It’s not just education or careers that lead women to make such choices.
“Not meeting the right guy… Even after they meet the right guy, waiting till comfortable in the relationship or marriage can also lead to having children late,” said Rajalaxmi Walavalkar-Dalvi, Consultant, IVF and Reproductive Surgery, at Thane’s Cocoon Fertility.
Devikarani, a Manipur government official, could also enjoy the joys of motherhood late as she never wanted to get married.
“I stayed single till 37. But then I had to fulfill my mother’s dying wish — to get me married — and so, I got hitched. Since I got married late, I had a daughter at 39 and a few years later I gave birth to twins,” she said.
“No, it was a normal delivery. But in the future it would be a little tough as they are still in primary school and I am almost 50. Had I become a mother on time, they would have been financially helping me,” said the government official.
The problems with late pregnancy don’t end here.
“Chances of a high-risk pregnancy are more. There are more chances of miscarriages, down syndrome, hypertension, gestational diabetes and low-weight babies,” said Sarita Sabharwal, Senior Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, at Dwarka’s Venkateshwar Hospital.
Walavalkar-Dalvi added that it’s harder to get pregnant the longer you wait. “Egg supply decreases significantly as you age, and the risk of miscarriage and birth defects is higher. They are more likely to require IVF treatments and to achieve pregnancy using donor egg treatments.”
But there’s a bright side to becoming a mother at 40.
“Parents in their 40s are ready, patient and self-assured. They are more experienced, more financially secure and comfortable in their career. It’s likely that it is a settled marriage, thus giving a good foundation for starting a family. Also, they are wiser, better educated and better equipped to make wiser parenting decisions,” said Walavalkar-Dalvi.
Dhaliwal believed that if late pregnancies have many biological disadvantages, they seem to be balanced by social advantages.
“For older mothers, being more educated, financially secure, prepared to make the necessary sacrifices that having a baby brings… more mature and understanding all the complexities associated with birth of a baby in late life, is a huge plus,” she said.
“So a healthy 40-year-old mother can have a much less risky pregnancy than one who is a healthy 28 if she prepares her body for pregnancy with a healthy lifestyle. Once pregnant, eating well, gaining the right amount of weight, being more vigilant can cut down the vast biological disadvantages of late motherhood,” she added.
Dhaliwal has the last word: “Every woman has to make her own decision, but having a healthy lifestyle, undertaking regular exercise, genetic counselling and testing for abnormalities in early pregnancy, and booking in early for antenatal care can help in being a mother at any age.”