‘Geriatric pregnancy’: What it’s like to give birth after 40

Posted in Birth Stories.

Anita in hospital with her newborn baby on her chest.

When Anita got divorced in her mid 30’s, she knew it meant her dreams of having another baby may be over.

But as fate would have it, she reconnected with a high school friend and before long, they became a blended family with her 12-year-old son and his two teenage daughters.

Luckily, Anita and Todd both wanted to add one more child to their brood.

“When my partner and I got together we knew early on that what we had was special and long term so I was so relieved he was open to having another bub with me (ironically after I had accepted that I may not have that second child seeing my 40th birthday was on the horizon),” Anita shares with Mum’s Grapevine.

“We planned our pregnancy with the thought that we would give ourselves 6 months to try. If nature gifted us with another that would be amazing, but if not, we would accept that it wasn’t meant to be and acknowledge we are lucky to have our eldest three children. As we are both older we expected it to take a little bit of time to fall pregnant and I have friends who are and had been doing IVF and are very aware of the low chance of conception as you get older.

“So, you can imagine our surprise when a few weeks after our first cycle of trying, I found out I was pregnant.”

Pregnant at 41

Anita pregnant in bed

It had been over a decade since Anita was last pregnant, and she soon discovered this time around was set to be a completely different experience.

“My pregnancy was symptomatic from the get-go, from hot flushes, implantation bleeding, nausea, fatigue, etc but I think I was on such a ‘high’ and also, that the entire pregnancy felt I was living a glorious dream, I didn’t hate it.

“I was utterly grateful and aware that I was in a beautifully privileged position to be carrying a child at 41 years of age. Due to my ‘geriatric’ label, the doctors planned from the get-go to not let me run over my due date. I initially saw a private OB while deciding whether I go private or public at the end, and as the pregnancy was healthy and I had no reasons for concern, I decided to birth at Gosford Public Hospital and was accepted into the Midwifery program where I had one-on-one care with the same midwife the whole way through.”

An induced birth

As Anita’s due date neared, her excitement turned into nerves as she thought about giving birth again.

“My first labour was horrendous and I did have apprehension going into my second birth due to it. After getting multiple stretch and sweeps leading up to my due date and having a ‘show’ with no action, my partner and I went to the hospital one afternoon to be assessed and decide what the plan was. We spent the night there together after they put gel on my cervix hoping this would start labour…apart from slight period cramping, nothing happened by morning so we went to the birthing suite where things were pushed along.

Anita’s baby moments after birth

“I accepted the offer of morphine and just relaxed for the next few hours and they also put an induction drip in to hurry things along. I sat on the exercise ball and had a bath and was in a really ‘zen’ state of mind until things really took place. The main part of my labour was very fast and intense and took place in just over an hour. My midwife nearly missed it as she stepped out thinking she had time to do so. I asked for an epidural but it was too late and I ended up delivering naturally without any further drugs or assistance. My son was placed on my chest and it was instant love. We knew we were having a son and to lay eyes on his face for the first time is beyond special.

“I wasn’t able to deliver the placenta and they were working on me for an hour to get it out which was torture. I was exhausted and ended up sleeping for a few hours I believe. After being taken back to the ward I had trouble going to the bathroom as my body went into some kind of shock so I ended up spending 4 or 5 nights in hospital before taking him home due to that.”

Anita’s newborn baby wrapped up in a blanket

‘You don’t bounce back as fast’

Despite enduring another challenging birth, Anita was happy her son, Torin, was born perfectly healthy.

“I noticed my body take longer to heal this time around but as I was fit and healthy before and during the pregnancy, I think that helped a lot. Once my hormones settled down around three months after the birth I noticed weight gain and my sweats still hadn’t gone away. I had blood work done and there were no surprises…I just think it’s slower to heal as you are older and you absolutely DO NOT bounce back as fast,” she says.

“Having the three older children has been amazing when we have them all home with us together. They are helpful and I have to steal bub away to have some time with him myself. He is just like our little piece of the missing puzzle.

“Having a baby at my age, for me, has been fantastic. I have noticed the challenges from when I had my last baby at 30 years of age, but, the positives far outweigh the negatives. It’s been phenomenal.”

‘Attitude of gratitude’

A family portrait on the beach with Anita, her partner and their four children.

“I was financially in a different position too, which allowed me time to stay home with him longer than my first time round. I am also highly aware of the gift we have and also know it is confronting for some friends who are and have been on their own journey trying to fall pregnant without success after seeing us fall pregnant so easily.

“Life has a funny way of playing out. To think I thought I wouldn’t get another baby but to then have one at 41 is unimaginable. Because of the attitude of gratitude I have, this time around I am more relaxed. It’s the best job in the world.”

Anita and her baby professional photoshoot

While the average age of mothers has been rising over time, only 4.5% of women who gave birth in Australia were aged over 40, according to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study in 2020.

It also found older mothers had higher rates of gestational diabetes, caesarean section birth and higher socioeconomic status.

Stacy’s three c-sections

Stacy delivers her third baby via c-section

Mum’s Grapevine group member Stacy, from Newcastle in NSW, has had three geriatric pregnancies and chose to see a private obstetrician to help manage the risks.

“I fell pregnant on my first attempt with my first child at 36, had her at 37. I had a horrible pregnancy with my first – sciatica, hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) and gestational hypertension – ending in a failed induction and emergency c-section,” she tells Mum’s Grapevine.

“I was told by my obstetrician if I wanted another to try in 11 months due to my maternal age.”

After waiting over a year, Stacy fell pregnant again naturally and gave birth when she was 39. Thankfully, her second pregnancy was much easier than her first.

A final surprise

“I was done at two but due to my age, they refused to allow me to have a tubal ligation and being 39, I was also deemed a high risk taking the pill. My husband was to get a vasectomy but at the last minute he refused and at 40, eight months after I had my son, I naturally fell pregnant with my final cherub.

“Again a high-risk pregnancy, diagnosed at 20 weeks with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM). My first two were planned, but my last was not. She was a massive surprise. My brother had Down’s Syndrome so I was a 1:80 chance of having a child with Down’s due to my age and maternal history.”

Stacy during her third trimester.

Stacy was closely monitored during her pregnancy and met regularly with her obstetrician. She was put on a strict diet to manage the GDM. Then at 36 weeks, she went into spontaneous labour while expressing colostrum for the first time.

“I couldn’t labour due to two c-sections very close together and the risk of complications so I was booked in for bed rest and steroids. At 37+5 my elective c-section was brought forward and I delivered my last.

“She was a healthy 4.05kg chunky girl who passed all her sugars and got to stay with me the majority of the time. Pre and postnatal care was exceptional. I was never treated geriatric. No nursing staff used the term nor did the obstetrician, anaesthetist or endocrinologist.”

Life with three kids under four

A professional family photoshoot of Stacy and her three kids

Stacy healed well from all of her c-sections, but unfortunately, her life dramatically changed after the birth of baby number three.

“My marriage ended when she was 8 months old. Their father had extensive mental health issues. I was left to solely empty the house with 3 kids under 4, and prepare for sale. I had to take unpaid leave from work. Ended up homeless (I had to stay with my mother for 6 months) due to the rental crisis, it took 6 months to find a rental.

“I’m the sole parent 100%. I work part-time. I do feel I’m lethargic and tired, but I can’t compare to anything else.”

Stacy and her three children.

While Stacy no doubt feels blessed to have her children, we wouldn’t be surprised if her favourite time of the day is when all three are sound asleep in bed.


Got your own birth story you’re itching to tell? We’re always on the lookout for new stories to feature. Submit your birth story.

Read next…

About to (or just had) a baby?

We know that the wait to meet your baby can be nerve-wracking, but we’re here to remind you that you’re not alone. Our private Pregnancy & Baby Groups are a great way to connect with other Aussie mums who are due or had their babies around the same time as you.

Share On