Janet Jackson is pregnant with her first child at 50. Molly Sims, 43, talks openly about her fertility struggles. More and more women over 40 are getting pregnant, they’ve been working hard at their careers longer, or simply didn’t want to have kids until they decided they did. But how does it work? As science tells us, a woman’s chances at a baby go down considerably after 40.
Who better to break down how more 40 and older women are getting pregnant that Married To Medicine cast members Dr. Jacqueline Walters and Dr. Simone Whitmore, who explain to Personal Space how exactly it’s possible. In case you were wondering. Because who wasn’t wondering (and happy!) for Janet, who managed to get pregnant at 50?
Jacqueline, an OB-GYN and doctor to stars like Toni Braxton, T.I., and Usher, says first of all, stop calling them “older women.”
“After my last birthday I don’t use ‘older women,’ we are more mature,” she says. “It’s just more wisdom…We love Janet. Women are now putting childbearing on hold because we’re pursuing careers. We want to become president, right? It’s the wave of the future. Girl power, I call it, and women’s empowerment. But certainly, the body doesn’t know that. As we get older, or more mature I’ll call it, the risk of 20 is higher, gestational hypertension or high blood pressure during pregnancy, gestational diabetes is higher. There are more risk factors. Miscarriage, chromosome abnormalities like Down Syndrome is higher. Just be aware so that you can certainly report to your doctor any early signs of any of this. If we can get to it earlier, we can certainly get you a good pregnancy or attempt to get a good pregnancy out of it. Just know your body. Be aware that you are at more risk and do everything that you can to stay healthy.”
Jacqueline says there’s never a “right time” to get pregnant, and that she herself wanted a baby at a more mature age.
“I cannot tell anybody there’s a right or wrong time, because just last season and the season before, I myself wanted a baby at a more mature age. Scientifically speaking though, the risk starts to go up at 35, the risk of chromosomal abnormalities.
“About the age of 40, the chances of getting pregnant is about 25 percent in the moment, every month. As we reach the age of 40 that drops, and 45 it’s plummeted to less than 5 percent. But be aware that sometimes you’re forcing an issue. We want to make it happen. Prematurely, babies in NICU some can have some long term effects. You just have to be aware that sometimes it might not be right than you. You have to accept the fact that we are more mature women and having a baby who may have complications down the road because we want to have a baby, we want to have a baby, might not be fair to the child. If it doesn’t fit, don’t force it.”
If you do get pregnant after 40?
“Women should always make sure they’re eating right. Nutrition. Your greatest wealth in life is your health. Taking care of yourself, eating correctly, exercise, and I’d love to tell you sleeping, but I don’t know if sleeping in pregnancy really takes because you’re uncomfortable, but resting. Resting is really important. Take your prenatal vitamins. And please go to the doctor. Keep your appointment and do what your doctor tells you to do. We’re not just there to entertain. This is real. Be aware of changes and report them quickly.”
If a woman is single or half of a gay couple, sperm donors are an amazing thing, but Jacqueline says of the selection process to “do it properly”
“Because we’re waiting a little later in life to have babies and may not necessarily have a spouse or a significant other, science has changed a lot in that you can actually go to a book and pick out your baby’s father. You can pick out the color of their eyes, their IQ, the hair… the book has everything. Just do it properly. Go through your fertility centers. If you’re going to use a friend or donor that you know, get the lawyers involved. We’ve seen enough in the media where they’ve created, as my friend Tamar Braxton says, ‘frozen babies,’ where you fertilize an egg with a sperm and you freeze it and it’s waiting, but you’re no longer friends or you’re no longer married. Just have all your legal documents in place. Make sure you are sure who owns the frozen baby, who owns the fertilized baby. We save thousands and thousands of dollars spent trying to determine, ‘Do I thaw the eggs?’ ‘Are they mine?’ ‘Are they yours?’ and having the heart to donate them. You can definitely adopt an egg. If you can’t get pregnant on your own and you really want to connect and bond with a pregnancy, you can adopt a fertilized egg implant and have a baby. Get all your legal information straight.”
Dr. Simone says that for women having a baby over 40, she has a risk of having a baby with a chromosomal abnormality like Down Syndrome.
“She has a higher risk of having a still birth just by virtue of the fact that she’s over 40,” she explains. “Higher risk of a baby who’s too small. We call it fetal growth restriction. Higher risk of pre-eclampsia, or high blood pressure. Higher risk of gestational diabetes. Just a higher, morbidity, mortality in pregnancy over 40.”
Simone also weighed in on Janet Jackson, and how exactly her pregnancy was possible.
“My guess would be with someone like Janet Jackson going on 50, is that she’s got an egg or sperm and did IVF, or in vitro fertilization,” she says. “That would be my guess for her. That is definitely an option when you talk about somebody in their late 40’s. Early 40’s, there’s a chance that her own eggs could be used and that the baby would be fine chromosomally. We certainly have lots of testing that we can do early in the pregnancy to confirm that the baby is indeed chromosomally normal.”
Simone says if you’re thinking about a family, to freeze your eggs before 35, if you can.
“So if you were going to do frozen eggs, that would be something you would go to the fertility specialist and hopefully get that done before age 35,” she says. “They put you on hormones, retrieve your eggs and freeze them for later use. The later use time would be a process of unthawing, fertilizing that egg with your husband or your partner’s sperm, and again putting those fertilized embryos back via in vitro fertilization, or IVF. It’s a very costly process.
“Just make sure first of all that pre-pregnancy you’re in the best health that you could possibly be in. Hopefully at your ideal body weight and not having other [cold morbidity] factors like high blood pressure, diabetes. But if you have those, just making sure that they’re in the best possible control, you’re on your medication, all of your numbers in terms of your blood pressure, your hemoglobin, [inaudible] all those numbers, in a good range prior to conception. And once you conceive, making sure that you eat healthy, stay plugged in with your obstetrician and also with the higher up obstetrician, get as much rest as possible, exercising 30 minutes three times a week. Those are the things that are best in a pregnancy.”
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