The Geriatric Mum: What’s it like being pregnant over 40?

When you’re twenty, forty sounds REALLY old. I’m fully aware that any twenty-somethings reading this are probably thinking that by forty they will be very different people; much more steady, sensible and worldly-wise, and that they will, like, totally have their shit together. When you’re forty however, you realise that no-one ever really has their shit together, and as for being more stable and wise; in some ways you are, but in many respects you just learn to manage the capricious and immature side of yourself, rather than grow out of it. You compartmentalise it, as if it were an over-excited chimp that you keep in a room on the other side of the house (if you’ve got your shit together enough to have bought a house that is….I haven’t.)

I never really thought about how old I’d be when I had children, but I suppose I didn’t really think I’d be as old as forty. Throughout my twenties, having children was a far-off concept, and I just vaguely thought that “in ten years time I’d think about it”. It wasn’t on my radar at all; I’d been brought up by a single mum who was a career woman; I’d seen her go from 1980’s benefits mum to training for seven years to be come a chiropractor and subsequently opening her own clinic, so my idea of womanhood was working, not mothering. My grandmother was the same; she came to the UK in the 1940’s and worked every day of her life —pretty much— until she died in her eighties. Getting married and having children was never really put on the plate as ‘the thing you do’, and if anything, seeing my mum struggle with two children on her own, coupled with her mental health issues, never made family life look particularly appealing.

My late twenties were spent travelling the world

My trajectory was doing my “A” levels, followed by University, and then throwing myself into life in all it’s wild, colourful, scary and exciting dimensions. I travelled, lived abroad, learnt languages, worked in TV, partied and studied, and when girlfriends discussed marrying rich men and ‘settling down’, it never quite hit home as something that was for me. I had a few serious relationships with guys who were ready to settle down, but I ran away as far as I could whenever things got serious. Not physically necessarily, but mentally; pushing them away because I was scared off by the thought of commitment. I took a long time to ‘mature’ in that sense, and it wasn’t until I was about thirty-seven that I started to change my mind about the whole “in ten years I’ll think about it” thing. Which is good, seeing that I didn’t really have ten years by that stage. Thankfully, I met my partner Rob, and thankfully he was also pushing the big four-“o”, so he also wanted to have children straight away, before he lost too much more of his hair.

Our first child Odhrán was born two days before I was thirty-nine. Because I’ve never experienced pregnancy as a younger woman, I didn’t know how the treatment I received throughout that pregnancy differed from that given to any other woman. I was assigned to a specialist maternity unit, but that was more to do with my family history of mental ill-health than my age, so the more frequent visits to the midwife were less to do with me being thirty-eight and more to do with me being likely to lose the plot. I managed to get through the pregnancy unscathed, and then went on to get pregnant again when Odhrán was sixteen months old.

This time, it seems my most recent birthday means I have crossed the line over to “Geriatric Motherhood’, and I have definitely noticed that my age is now a factor, if not with my own health, then with the supervision of the medics. Thirty-five maybe be the age at which you’re considered to be having a “geriatric pregnancy”, but forty is the milestone that, if crossed, flags up a whole host of other things on which the health professionals looking after you will be keep an eye.

Baby Odhrán was born when I was almost 39.

So what can you expect if you’re forty and pregnant? Well, again, I was assigned back to the same specialist unit as with my first pregnancy, but this time I’ve noticed a few added extras. Here is a run-down:

More frequent midwife (antenatal) appointments:

I see my midwife every three weeks for urine checks, blood pressure, fetal heartbeat checks and bump measurements. In these appointments she asks me how I am generally, mentally, and whether there is anything that concerns me. On one appointment, she picked up on my vaginal thrush symptoms, and also sent me for tests which showed that I had Group B Strep (a common bacteria that two in five people have living in their body, which is normally harmless but does need some management during birth to ensure the baby doesn’t get ill, so it’s important that the delivery team are aware). My midwife will also flag up any concerns she has with fetal growth, for example if your bump is measuring big or small you’ll be sent for extra scans at the hospital.

How does this differ from a younger woman’s experience? For younger pregnant women, visits to the midwife would be much less frequent. According to the NHS, for first pregnancies, you can expect to have up to ten antenatal appointments throughout the whole pregnancy, and that includes all your hospital scans. For women having their second baby, you’ll have only around seven antenatal appointments throughout the whole pregnancy. In my case, if you add up all the midwife appointments, scans and seeing the consultant, I will total about sixteen or seventeen planned antenatal appointments (and this isn’t even my first baby!).

At forty, I see my midwife every three weeks

Aspirin:

Despite being fit, active and with no health conditions (thank God) being over forty means that I’ve been told that I have to take a daily 150mg dose of Aspirin in order to prevent blood clots, hypertension and possible preeclapmpsia. I don’t have any other warning signs for developing any of these conditions, so although it can be taken from as early as twelve weeks, I was only prescribed it from twenty-seven weeks. As there is no evidence that it does any harm, I decided to heed the midwife’s advice and take it as a precaution, even though developing these conditions is not one of my concerns.

I’m taking the recommended 150mg of aspirin a day to prevent preeclampsia

Consultant appointment:

Another thing I’ve been told just recently is, that in addition to all the extra antenatal appointments I am having because of my age, I will also be given a consultant appointment at around thirty weeks. This is to discuss our birth plan and to advise me that they recommend an induction. Which brings me on to the next point:

Induction plan at forty weeks:

Being aged forty or above means that a consultant will advise that I am induced on my due date (forty weeks), as according to the NHS, losing your baby as a stillbirth once ‘overdue’ carries about twice the risk of a younger mother (which is about the same risk as that to a thirty year old woman at forty-two weeks pregnant; one in five hundred).

As an over-forty mum, the consultant will advise that I am induced at forty weeks

Glucose Tolerance Test (GTT):

The NHS say that developing gestational diabetes is approximately four times more likely in mothers over forty when compared to women in their twenties or early thirties (about one in twenty-five compared to one in one hundred). My midwife tests my urine for sugar at every antenatal checkup and I also had a GTT test to check that my body was able to metabolise sugars in the normal way. It is: yay!

My verdict?

That’s about it…for now! It’s important to note that despite older mothers seeming more likely to experience problems in pregnancy and childbirth, what is unclear is whether the increased chance of complications applies to all pregnant women over forty, just first time mothers
over forty, pregnant women over forty who have a large number of other children or pregnant women over forty who have additional underlying health problems. If you’re fit, active and healthy like I am lucky enough to be, then conception, pregnancy and childbirth are all highly likely to go as smoothly as if you were in your early thirties. So don’t let any of this worry you! Pregnancies over forty are also on the increase, with loads of women now waiting until they’re in the right relationship or for other conditions to be right before embarking on motherhood. So if you are one of them, you are in good company!

If anything, I count myself extremely lucky to be living in the UK, where I have access to all these extra check and measures, as I’m a firm believer that there’s no harm in being extra vigilant, and of putting your mind at rest. I feel very fortunate that both me and my baby girl are in such great hands and that our health is being monitored every step of the way, “geriatric” or not! Bring on the zimmerframe!

Freya is one half of The Amateur Parents, alongside Rob, her partner. Head over to Instagram and to see all the latest posts from @the_amateur_mama

Boy or Girl? We put TEN baby gender predictions to the test.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be dying to know the gender of your baby almost as soon as you see a positive result on your pregnancy test. Mums-to-be have, for generations, turned to old wives tales to predict the gender of their baby, but how do these non-scientific approaches compare to modern technology? When Rob and I decided to find out the sex of our baby, we put ten well-known gender prediction methods to the test. From old folklore to state-of-the-art DNA analysis, which ones turned out to be correct?  

1. SneakPeek Test:

For someone born in the ’80s, whose own mother didn’t even have an ultrasound scan, this first one is almost unfathomably futuristic. The SneakPeek test is an at-home finger-prick blood test that you send off for DNA analysis. How on earth does it work? While every person has his or her own DNA in their bloodstream, a pregnant woman’s bloodstream also contains DNA from her unborn child. A non-pregnant woman will only have female chromosomes in her blood, so SneakPeek looks for male chromosomes in a small sample of your blood. If they find male chromosomes, that means baby is a boy. If no male chromosomes are found, the baby is a girl. SneakPeek’s website claims that their test is 99.9% accurate at 8 weeks into pregnancy, so if you simply can’t wait until the 20 week scan, this is a great choice.

How early can you use it? 

8 weeks.

What does it cost?

£79 (but you can get 10 USD off if you use The Amateur Parents special discount code SPIDEC12).

Was it easy to use?

As long as you don’t mind using a finger-prick device to extract your own blood, the SneakPeek test is relatively easy to do without leaving the house; it just takes a bit of preparation and careful reading of the instructions. I took mine when my (male) toddler and partner weren’t around, as contamination of the test with male DNA can give you a false ‘boy’ result. They provide everything you need in the kit, but be careful not to open the cellophane wrapper until you’re ready to take the test and have washed your hands and sanitised the surface you’re going to use thoroughly. It comes with a little nail brush, and the instructions are very specific about how long you should scrub your hands for, and about not touching anything else while you handle the test contents. As long as you’re happy to follow the instructions to the ’T”, it’s not hard to do. I particularly liked the fact that they provided a little stand for the vial, a rubber band to put round your wrist to increase blood flow, and several finger prickers in case you don’t get enough blood with the first one. 

How quick are the results?

I took the test on a Monday, posted it off the same day (the test recommends you take it to a post office for scanning, but I just popped it in the postbox nearest my house, and it was fine). I got the results by email on the Friday night. So in my case, 4 days, but I know some people who have got their results back even quicker. It’s worth mentioning that we were in Lockdown in the UK when I posted mine off, but my results still came back pretty fast.

What was their prediction?

GIRL (scroll to the bottom of the blog to find out if they were correct!)

GET 10 USD off the SneakPeek test HERE or use The Amateur Parents discount code SPIDEC12

2. Nub Theory:

Before about 15 weeks gestation, both boy and girl babies have ‘genital tubercles’, also known as a ‘nub’, between their legs. In early pregnancy this nub looks surprisingly similar on both males and females, but with time, this small part of your baby’s anatomy will eventually develop into their gender-specific genitals. For those in the know, determining gender is possible between 12-14 weeks gestation by looking at a scan picture and analysing the angle and shape of this nub, also referred to as the “angle of the dangle.” The ultrasound picture must be in profile view in order to allow both the spine, and the nub’s relationship to it, to be seen. The theory goes that if the nub is angled at greater than 30 degrees in relation to the spine, it is likely to be a male fetus. If it is pointing straight out, under 30 degrees, or down, it is likely a female fetus! You can try and work it out yourself by looking at your 12 week scan, or do what we did, and go to the Nubologists to get it done professionally!

How early can you use it? 

12 weeks.

What does it cost? 

£7.99

Was it easy to use?

Very. I emailed the Nubologists two scans from my 12 week ultrasound appointment and they emailed me back with a gender prediction, explanation and annotated scan picture. They also told me, as a percentage, the certainty with which they were making their prediction (this differs depending on the clarity of your scan, position of the baby and other factors to do with the scan beyond their control). 

How quick are the results?

Nubologists do a 24 hours service, or even quicker for a higher fee.

What was their prediction?

GIRL, which they predicted with 85% confidence (scroll to the bottom of the blog to find out if they were correct!).

3. Skull Theory:

Skull gender theory works by identifying the shape, size, and other related factors of your baby’s skull while they’re in the womb. According to skull gender theory, the sex of your baby can be identified by how blocky, round, large or small your baby’s skull is. Boys are said to generally have larger, blockier skull shapes than girls. Girls are said to have more rounded skulls that are also smaller in overall size. If you’ve got your 12 week scan pictures, you can try and work it out yourself, or do what we did, and go to The Gender Experts to get it done professionally!

How early can you use it?

12 weeks.

What does it cost? 

We got the Skull Theory and the Ramzi Theory as a package and the price for that is £14.39 (USD to GPB conversion accurate as of 15th Nov 2020.). Skull theory on its own costs £9.

Was it easy to use?

Yes, I emailed The Gender Experts two scans from my 12 week ultrasound appointment and they emailed me back with a gender prediction, explanation and annotated scan pictures.

How quick are the results?

They emailed me the results within 24 hours.

What was their prediction?

GIRL (scroll to the bottom of the blog to find out if they were correct!).

4. Ramzi Theory:

The placenta is a vital organ connecting the mother’s uterus with the foetus, supporting the developing baby by supplying nutrients, eliminating waste products and enabling gas exchange via the mother’s blood supply. But how does the placenta develop? Around 9 days after implantation, finger-like projections known as ‘chorionic villi’ start to connect the early embryo with the mother’s uterine wall, and these projections are often referred to as the ‘future placenta’. Dr. Saam Ramzi Ismail discovered that the direction or orientation of the chorionic villi is an accurate marker in determining the sex of a baby. He believed that a natural polarization occurs in the womb in which male embryos are magnetized toward the right side of the uterus, and females are drawn toward the left side. It’s best to use a scan picture taken at around 6-9 weeks gestation for the Ramzi theory. You can ask your sonographer which side your placenta is on at your early scan, or if this isn’t possible, do what we did and send your scan picture to The Gender Experts.

How early can you use it?

6 weeks.

What does it cost? 

We got the Skull Theory and the Ramzi Theory as a package from The Gender Experts and the price for that is £14.39 (USD to GPB conversion accurate as of 15th Nov 2020.). The Ramzi theory on its own costs £9.

Was it easy to use?

Yes, I emailed The Gender Experts two scans from my 9 week ultrasound appointment and they emailed me back with a gender prediction, explanation and annotated scan picture.

How quick are the results?

They emailed me the results within 24 hours.

What was their prediction?

GIRL (scroll to the bottom of the blog to find out if they were correct!).

5. Psychic Gender Prediction:

If you’re open-minded and fancy a more spiritual take on baby gender prediction, there are psychics who, as well as giving readings on love life, career, health and money, can predict if and when you’ll have a baby, and if you’re pregnant; what gender you’re carrying. After googling ‘baby gender psychic prediction’ we chose Enchanted Destiny, who from the age of 12, has been doing tarot card and psychic readings, ever since she bought an astrology book in a supermarket while on holiday with her mum. Since then she says she has developed even stronger powers, and can make predictions using tarot cards, oracle or angel cards, or by receiving messages from ‘spirit’. 

How early can you use it?

As soon as you know you’re pregnant (or even before!).

What does it cost? 

We bought Australian reader Enchanted Destiny’s ‘Psychic Baby Gender Same Day Reading‘, costing £4.72 on Etsy.

Was it easy to use?

Yes, I found Enchanted Destiny on Google when her shop on Etsy popped up. I hit ‘buy now’ and dropped her a message with my name, and she replied with a short message containing her prediction.

How quick are the results?

I received my results the same day.

What was their prediction?

GIRL (scroll to the bottom of the blog to find out if they were correct!).

6. Old Wives Tale 1: Bump shape and position:

If you’re a traditionalist, there’s a plethora of old wives tales which claim to predict the gender of your baby without any invasive tests, ultrasounds or spirit guides to help! We chose three of them to predict our baby’s gender, the first one being ‘bump size and position’. Generations of women (and men!) swear that you can tell the baby’s gender just by looking at the mother-to-be’s bump. Carrying ‘high’ means you are having a girl, while carrying ‘low’ traditionally means boy. Additionally, a round, ball-like baby bump means you’re pregnant with a baby boy, while a wider bump with weight distributed width-ways across your midriff is a sign you’re carrying a girl. It’s kind of impossible to be objective about your own bump, so I asked my Instagram followers to look at it and decide whether it looked more like a boy baby bump or a girl! 55 people commented with their guesses on my Instagram page @the_amateur_mama. 

How early can you use it?

As soon as you have a visible bump, so ideally from about 18 weeks, depending on your body shape. We did it at just over 19 weeks.

What does it cost? 

Nothing!

Was it easy to use?

Yes, it’s as simple as asking people to look at your bump and tell you what they think based on whether you’re ‘all bump’ (indicating a boy) or more spread out (girl), and whether your bump is high up on your body (girl) or lower down (boy). 

How quick are the results?

Pretty instantaneous!

What was their prediction?

BOY. 36 people said boy, and 19 said girl, so boy won. (Scroll to the bottom of the blog to find out if they were correct!).

7. Old Wives Tale 2: Ring on a string:

For this test you need a ring attached to a piece of thread. Lie on your back and have your partner or a friend dangle the ring over your baby bump, and wait for it to start moving on its own. The theory goes that if the ring moves back and forth like a pendulum, the baby is a boy. If it moves in a circle, you’re having a girl. 

How early can you use it?

As soon as you know you’re pregnant, or wait until you have  bump if you prefer.

What does it cost? 

Nothing!

Was it easy to use?

Yes; you literally tie a piece of string to a ring and get someone to hang it above your tummy.

How quick are the results?

It took less than a minute for the ring to start moving.

What was their prediction?

GIRL (Scroll to the bottom of the blog to find out if they were correct!).

8. Old Wives Tale 3: Baby’s heartbeat:

The heartbeat test involves finding out the rate of your baby’s heart rate in beats per minute, or BPM. This is a figure that you can find out from your doctor or midwife as early as six weeks into your pregnancy, when a baby’s heart can first be detected. According to the heart rate theory, the fetal heart rate of girls is faster than that of boys.  A heart rate above 140bpm means the baby is a girl while under 140 suggests the baby is male.

Odhrán was fascinated with with the midwife’s doppler when she listened to my baby’s heartbeat.

How early can you use it?

It’s possible that you could ask your sonographer to tell you your baby’s BPM as early as 6 weeks if you’re going for an early reassurance scan. Otherwise, your midwife may well listen to your baby’s heartbeat with a doppler from 16 weeks, as mine did.

What does it cost? 

With your NHS midwife and a doppler, it is free. As part of an early reassurance scan, costs vary depending on which clinic you go to. 

Was it easy to use?

Yes, the midwife places a doppler on your bump and detects the heartbeat within a few seconds, which can then be heard on the loudspeaker. She will use a watch to count how many beats there are and work out the BPM. 

How quick are the results?

It takes a few minutes for them to find and measure the heartbeat.

What was their prediction?

BOY. My baby’s BPM at 16 weeks was 130bpm, which, according to the theory, suggests that the baby is a boy. (Scroll to the bottom of the blog to find out if they were correct!).

9. Chinese Gender Predictor chart:

The Chinese Gender chart is said to go back some 700 years when, according to legend, a gender prediction calendar was discovered in a royal Chinese tomb. It essentially involves tapping your age when you conceived your baby, and the month of conception into the Chinese Gender Prediction calculator, which converts the numbers into a prediction of whether the baby will be a boy or a girl.

Chinese Gender Prediction. Credit: motherandbaby.co.uk

How early can you use it?

As soon as you find out you’re pregnant.

What does it cost? 

Free.

Was it easy to use?

Yes, either use the chart above from Mother & Baby to work it out yourself, or use a free online calculator like this one

How quick are the results?

Instant!

What was their prediction?

BOY. I was 40 when I conceived, and the conception happened in the month of July, so according to the chart I am carrying a boy. (Scroll to the bottom of the blog to find out if they were correct!).

10. Parental and Family intuition:

Last but not least, there’s a lot to be said for good old fashioned intuition, or ‘having a hunch’, and often the mother-to-be, father-to-be and close family will have a ‘gut feeling’ about whether the baby will be male or female. But are they right? As there’s no scientific basis to this, the answers are little more than guesses, but we thought it would be interesting to see whether in our case any of the hunches came out as correct.

Rob’s sister Kate wasn’t backwards in coming forward with her gender prediction!

How early can you use it?

As soon as you find out you’re pregnant.

What does it cost? 

Free.

Was it easy to use?

Yes! If you’re trying to work our what your own hunch is, useful questions to ask yourself are: What’s your gut feeling saying about the baby you’re carrying? How are you feeling, physically and emotionally? When you visualise your baby, are they male or female? What name do you imagine they have? And if this is not your first pregnancy, how does this one compare to your previous pregnancies? Then ask your family what they think (often they’ll offer their unsolicited opinion without you having to ask anyway!). 

How quick are the results?

In most cases you’ll get an immediate answer, but sometimes people like to sleep on it!

What was their prediction?

GIRL. Rob was convinced it was a boy; while my dad, Rob’s mum and dad, and his sister all agreed with me: GIRL. I had a hunch I was carrying a girl because of how different I felt to when I was pregnant with Odhrán. My morning sickness was worse, and I felt different hormonally; less irritable, scrappy or snappy than the first pregnancy, and with a reduced (non existent) sex drive. My tummy also felt bigger and less ‘compact’ earlier on than with Odhrán. Overall, Rob: you were outvoted!

The reveal: WHO was right???

So there you have it: ten baby gender methods and their predictions. But which were correct? Well, our 20 week ultrasound scan did in fact show that we are expecting:

Our 20 week scan showed that we are expecting a: GIRL

A BABY GIRL!

Here’s how the predictions measured up:

SneakPeek: GIRL. Unsurprisingly, this scientific DNA test by SneakPeek was CORRECT.

Nub Theory: GIRL. Also unsurprisingly, given its scientific background and high success rate, the Nub theory by Nubologists was CORRECT.

Skull Theory: GIRL. Not usually regarded quite as scientific as the Nub theory, the Skull theory, provided by The Gender Experts, was nevertheless CORRECT.

Ramzi Theory: GIRL Again, not as widely relied upon as the Nub theory, the Ramzi theory by The Gender Experts was CORRECT.

Psychic Prediction: GIRL. Completely unexplainable, but you’ve got to give it to her, EnchantedPsychic was CORRECT.

And the Old Wives Tales?

Bump shape and position: BOY. The minority who guessed ‘girl’ were correct, but the vast majority of answers which said ‘boy’ were INCORRECT.

Ring on a string: GIRL. Rob held the ring on a string without knowing which direction meant what, and inexplicably, its circular motion (meaning girl) turned out to be CORRECT.

Baby’s heartbeat: BOY. I’d have loved this one to be correct, but unfortunately, the 130bpm recorded at 16 weeks meant that this theory was INCORRECT. Interestingly I had the heartbeat measured again (by the same midwife) as 20 weeks and it was around 145bpm the second time, showing that it doesn’t necessarily stay the same throughout pregnancy anyway, which kind of debunks this Old Wives Tale..

Chinese Gender Prediction Chart: BOY. Unsurprisingly, this ‘ancient and legendary’ predication method was INCORRECT.

And how about our own ‘hunch’?

Parental and Family Intuition: GIRL. Despite having no scientific basis whatsoever, our good old-fashioned ‘gut feeling’ was CORRECT.

My verdict?

I was pleasantly surprised that so many of the predictions were correct, and in particular that the SneakPeek, Nub, Skull and Ramzi predictions all concurred with the 20 week scan. In my opinion, the Nub, Skull and Ramzi theories are a great, affordable way to get an idea of what gender you might be carrying, as they don’t break the bank, seem to have a pretty high success rate and involve nothing more than emailing your 6 or 12 week scan to them to get a result.

To get the most definitive answer, I would recommend getting your DNA analysed with SneakPeek, as it’s pretty fail-safe. A friend of mine did all four methods as we did, just to be sure that she was really carrying a girl.

The psychic prediction was a fun addition, and although there’s no scientific explanation for it, I do think some people just have a gift for picking up on things that the wider population believe are impossible to see. If you’re open-minded or see it as a bit of fun, why not! As for the Old Wives Tales, well, unsurprisingly, three out of the four we tried were proved wrong. My bump shape is more to do with my body type and metabolism than anything else, and what my panel of followers on Instagram giving their predictions didn’t know, was that despite looking quite ‘compact’ and ‘all bump’ compared to the average, my current bump actually looks quite different to when I was pregnant with my first baby, Odhrán, a boy.

As for intuition, well again, that turned out to be correct! Sometimes you just have ‘a feeling’. Saying that though, it’s not statistically proven at all, and many parents-to-be are convinced they’ve got a boy, which turns out to be a girl, and vice versa! When my mum was pregnant with my brother, in 1981, she was convinced for the whole 9 months that he was a girl (they didn’t have ultrasounds then, much less DNA tests!) and was shocked that her ‘gut feeling’ turned out to be wrong, and apparently that happens a lot.

To conclude: Whether boy or girl, the most important thing is that your baby is happy and healthy! But of course it’s nice —and fun— to find out. It’s amazing these days that we have the technology to find out so early, which can definitely help with bonding and preparing. I hope you found our little ‘experiment’ entertaining at the very least, and interesting and helpful at best! Leave a comment to tell me which methods you’ve tried and whether they turned out to be correct!

Freya is one half of The Amateur Parents, along with partner Rob. They are parents to 18 month old Odhrán and a baby GIRL!, due in 2021.