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Tamika Michelle Johnson: Pregnancy Over 40

Tamika Michelle Johnson: Pregnancy Over 40

  • Trigger Warning: The story below contains descriptions of distressing pregnancy and birth experiences. This is Tamika Michelle Johnson’s story.

“I never thought in a million years that I would have gotten pregnant and had a baby in my 40s. As you can imagine, when I found out that I was expecting a few months shy of my 41st birthday, I was both excited and scared.

There was excitement because my husband and I wanted to have a baby together. But I was also terrified because for years I’ve heard about the increased chances of miscarrying or having a baby with Down Syndrome when women get pregnant at this ‘geriatric’ age. Scouring the internet for additional information about being pregnant at 40 was even more depressing.

Despite all the daunting statistics about having a baby at 40 years old, I felt confident that everything was going to be okay. Then about a month after I found out that I was pregnant, I began to spot. Crushed, I immediately panicked and thought that I was losing my baby.

I told my mother what was happening. She calmly asked me if this was around the time of the month that I normally had my cycle. I responded yes and she replied that it was not unusual to spot or lightly bleed early in pregnancy, especially around the time that a woman has her monthly cycles.

Now I don’t know if my mother truly believed that or if she was trying to keep me calm, but my ultrasound a few days later revealed that everything was alright with our little one. I could relax again.

From that point on, I began tracking the baby’s week-by-week development on Baby Center. Every week was a new milestone and a realization that this was really happening. Then I went to visit my OB around 16 weeks and they referred me to a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist because of my advanced age. Initially, I was offended. But I grew to appreciate the additional care because this pregnancy was way more supervised than when I had my daughter at 25 years old.

During my initial visit with my MFM specialist, they advised me to take one 81 mg baby aspirin daily until the baby was born in order to decrease the chances of preeclampsia, which is life threatening to both mom and baby, and happens more with older pregnant women.2 In addition to gender confirmation, I also had genetic testing done for chromosomal and/or genetic defects. My blood pressure remained in a healthy range, the genetic testing came back negative, and we found out that we were having a boy!

However, towards the end of my second trimester, an ultrasound revealed that my son had an Intrauterine Growth Restriction (IUGR), where he was measuring small and in the 9th percentile in size compared to other babies during this gestational time period. The specialist told me that my son looked like he was conserving energy and brain function. They asked if I was eating enough. Admittedly, I was not overeating and did not want to gain too much weight, so I made it a point to increase my food consumption from that day forward. My son remained relatively small throughout the duration of my pregnancy, but otherwise healthy. Due to his small size, I was induced a day before my due date. My OB advised that at 40 and over, the placenta starts to deteriorate earlier so she advised an induction when I went in for that week’s appointment.

I definitely was not prepared to deliver that day. Fortunately, my bags were already packed at home. My husband picked them up and brought them to the hospital. At this point, I was over being pregnant and ready to welcome our son into the world, so it did not take much for me to agree to be induced.

Once admitted into the hospital, I was given Cytotec to soften my cervix as the first step in the induction process and was told that I would be giving Pitocin a little later. However, about 30 minutes after taking the Cytotec, my mucus plug came out and my contractions started. They got really painful, really fast. After crying, pleading, cursing, begging, and kicking my 16-year-old daughter out of the room, I was finally given an epidural five hours later. I felt better almost immediately, until my blood pressure started dropping from the epidural and nausea set in. My son was also in distress. To counter both of those issues, I was given medication to bring my blood pressure back up again and to get my son back to normal. Fifteen hours later, I gave birth to a healthy 7 lbs. 2 oz baby boy, who was actually bigger than expected based on the doctor’s IUGR diagnosis.

I was relieved that everything went well overall with my pregnancy and delivery. About a week after having my son, I was sitting in my oversized chair nursing my son in one arm and as he fell asleep, I started my “Pregnancy After Forty Private Group” on Facebook.

So many women become pregnant or think about having a baby in their 40s and are faced with so much criticism and negativity about this decision. Our “Pregnancy After 40” community, which now has over 7,000 members, is comprised of women from all over the world, including different races, nationalities, educational levels, and socio-economic backgrounds. The purpose is to support and congratulate other women on this “Pregnancy After 40” journey. We also offer personal advice for women who are trying to conceive, pregnant or recently had a baby in their 40s regardless of their backgrounds.

After having my son at 41 and creating this group, I felt empowered by what our bodies can do, especially at this age, despite what many say or think. In fact, my husband and I decided that we wanted another baby when my son was a few months old. When he was 8 months old, I found out that I was pregnant again at 42 years old. Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at around 8 weeks. Surprisingly, I did not let that loss deter me from trying again. Two months after that miscarriage, we conceived again.

Again, I was both ecstatic and nervous. That pregnancy was nerve-wracking because of the recent loss. When I started bleeding in my first trimester, I thought I was miscarrying again. Upon rushing to the OB when this happened around 12 weeks, an ultrasound revealed a subchorionic hemorrhage, which ultimately resolved on its own with a few weeks of cervical rest.

I was advised to take baby aspirin again during this pregnancy, but this time I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, which I was able to control with my diet. I also found out that I was having another son. Aside from the gestational diabetes and anxiety, this pregnancy was good for the most part. However, this son measured in the 90th percentile throughout my pregnancy, so I had a scheduled induction at 39 weeks. Feeling huge and so ready for my son to come, I made it very clear that my birth plan was to experience as little pain as possible. Thankfully, the nurses and doctors made it happen. I was administered an epidural shortly after I began contracting and the labor was amazing. I delivered another healthy son, weighing 8 lbs. 9 oz. at 43 years old.

Shortly after, I launched the “Pregnancy After 40” podcast and website to provide a safe space and platform for other women thinking about or having babies in their 40s. On the podcast, we feature stories of amazing women who share their own “Pregnancy After 40” journey because there are so many paths that one can take to get there.

So, if you are over 40 years old and you are considering having a baby or are currently pregnant, know that with understanding; it is absolutely possible to have healthy babies at this age and we are all here to support you!

 

Written By: Tamika Michelle Johnson (she/her/hers)

She is an Attorney, Speaker, and Podcast Host who encourages women to “Rethink & Redesign Their Life After 40 in Love, Life & Career” including Pregnancy After 40 and Marriage After 40.

40 Is Just the Beginning… The Best is Yet to Come!

 

Social Media:

Website

Facebook Group

Instagram: @pregnancyafterforty

Clubhouse: @40andover

 

References

      1. Hasan, R., Baird, D. D., Herring, A. H., Olshan, A. F., Jonsson Funk, M. L., & Hartmann, K. E. (2009). Association between first-trimester vaginal bleeding and miscarriage. Obstetrics and gynecology, 114(4), 860–867. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0b013e3181b79796ACOG (2018). Low-Dose Aspirin Use During Pregnancy https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2018/07/low-dose-aspirin-use-during-pregnancy
      2. Mai CT, Kucik JE, Isenburg J, Feldkamp ML, Marengo LK, Bugenske EM, Thorpe PG, Jackson JM, Correa A, Rickard R, Alverson CJ, Kirby RS; National Birth Defects Prevention Network. Selected birth defects data from population-based birth defects surveillance programs in the United States, 2006 to 2010: featuring trisomy conditions. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2013 Nov;97(11):709-25. doi: 10.1002/bdra.23198. PMID: 24265125; PMCID: PMC4636004.
      3. Mai CT, Kucik JE, Isenburg J, Feldkamp ML, Marengo LK, Bugenske EM, Thorpe PG, Jackson JM, Correa A, Rickard R, Alverson CJ, Kirby RS; National Birth Defects Prevention Network. Selected birth defects data from population-based birth defects surveillance programs in the United States, 2006 to 2010: featuring trisomy conditions. Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2013 Nov;97(11):709-25. doi: 10.1002/bdra.23198. PMID: 24265125; PMCID: PMC4636004.
      4. Mayo Clinic, Miscarriage https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pregnancy-loss-miscarriage/symptoms-causes/syc-20354298
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