The first time I walked into my OB’s office, I couldn’t unsee it. A big yellow folder with my last name written on it and a pink sticky note on the front that read “GERIATRIC.” In all caps, of course.
At the ripe old age of 38, I hadn’t considered the fact that my pregnancy would be different than that of my previous ones, at ages 29 and 31. But here I was, in a high-risk medical office (due to my age alone) being coddled by nurses and ushered in the exam room office fragilely, like I was going to break.
Geriatric pregnancy is an outdated term
The term geriatric pregnancy is coined when a pregnant woman is 35 years or older. This verbiage is often used interchangeably with “advanced maternal age.” If you ask me, both are equally insulting because society trains us to learn that aging is bad. Do you see anyone embrace their wrinkles, eye bags, chicken necks or gray hair?
And others agree. In fact, thousands of women using Peanut, the social networking app that connects women on matters of motherhood started a “renaming revolution” movement to get rid of the outdated glossary of terms that are being used across pregnancy. Among the top asks on the list? Change “geriatric pregnancy” to “35+ mom.”
While these asks have increasingly gained support from the medical community, the problem lies with the way pregnancy is coded in medical records and is communicated to insurance companies. How ironic that we are using an old system to essentially call ourselves old!
I wish the medical professionals would just stop dancing around the fancy terminology and just come out and say it: my uterus is over the hill and its shocking that my old eggs aren’t scrambled by now. There, elephant in the room gone.
Time and time again, because I am pregnant at 38, I am reminded about the risks to the fetus, millions of potential things that could go wrong and am offered more genetic tests than a Costco pack of diapers.
I think that sometimes doctors and nurses get so caught up in the science and statistics that they forget that we are human beings cooking human beings. It is scary enough bringing a baby into this world (and in a pandemic nonetheless), but there has to be a better way to discuss these concerns than through age shaming.
Women giving birth after 35 is increasing
While the facts are valid and might sound frightening, what we don’t hear is that the National Vital Statistics Reports show that the percentage of women giving birth at age 35 or older are increasing every year. People are getting married later in life and more women are putting off pregnancy to pursue a career. What’s more, while pregnancy risks do increase with age, there’s no reason to believe that risks magically ‘jump’ after turning 35, another study suggests.
So while I am going to continue to listen to my high-risk medical team and do everything they suggest to keep my baby healthy before she comes, I’m also going turn the tables around and milk the fact that I get to be a senior citizen twice in my life.
No, I won’t be craving Virginia Slims, Brussels sprouts and prune juice. But I’ll enjoy wearing my padded underwear – which is basically a modern-day version of Depends – and I’ll take advantage of half-price movie tickets for a matinee. Heck, I’ll even call the hospital to see if I qualify for a senior discount on labor and delivery.
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