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32 Weeks at 42 Years

If you told me 20 years ago I would be pregnant at 42 years old I would have thought it was impossible.  I had a plan: get my advanced education, begin my career, get married and start a family.  I thought that timeline would have been a lot faster but it took us 5 years of failed fertility treatments and 4 miscarriages to have our 1st child.  But everything happens for a reason.

My delayed timeline allowed me to fall in love with my profession and become a specialist in women's health physical therapy.  This path not only led to the start up of Vitality Women's Physical Therapy and Wellness but it gave me all the tools I needed to support my pregnancies and postpartum recovery.  Now as a mom of 2 boys (ages 4 and 2) and with our baby girl due this summer, I can sit back and reflect on my experience as a "geriatric" mother and see how, despite its risks, it has been an advantage for me.

Actually the term "geriatric pregnancy" is no longer commonly used and the medical community has converted to speaking in terms of "advanced maternal age" for women over 35 who are pregnant.  Women of advanced maternal age carry a greater risk for pregnancy complications including high blood pressure and gestational diabetes.  Notably there is an increased chance of developing Preeclampsia: a condition in pregnancy characterized by abrupt hypertension (a sharp rise in blood pressure), albuminuria (leakage of large amounts of the protein albumin into the urine) and edema (swelling) of the hands, feet, and face.  This can be a VERY serious condition.

I have faced the challenges of preeclampsia with both of my son's pregnancies.  It isn't easy being sidelined with bed rest when you have patients to see or a child to care for.  I've learned how important it is to slow down and take care of yourself while you are growing a life inside you.  Fortunately, I have had the support of a great OB who has watched each pregnancy closely and listened to my early concerns with my 1st when I was suspicious of the possible onset of preeclampsia.  When usual swelling began I started to take my blood pressure at work each day.  We literally caught my preeclampsia the second it could be diagnosed.  With both pregnancies I was able to deliver before I got very sick. Not all women are so lucky.

Right now I feel like a ticking time bomb as my OB says I have a 25-50% chance of having it again but I'll be starting weekly visits with my OB for close monitoring and we have a strategy to deliver early (by 38 weeks) even if I don't become hypertensive.  Also, I take a daily low dose aspirin as prescribed by my MD as ACOG supports the recommendation to consider the use of low-dose aspirin (81 mg/day), initiated between 12 and 28 weeks of gestation, for the prevention of preeclampsia,  Being a little more "mature" and educated has helped me pursue the care I needed.  All women deserve this same care and education to support their pregnancies.

In addition to having more advancements in the care of maternal and fetal health over the last few years, another benefit of my advanced age is having a 15-year career as a physical therapist under my belt.  Luckily in my specialization, I've learned everything I need to do to build abdominal and pelvic floor muscle strength to prevent common problems in pregnancy and in postpartum recovery.  Many women experience back and pelvic pain as well as incontinence.  Decreased strength, poor posture and body awareness can contribute to these conditions.  There are many strategies to prevent the onset of debilitating symptoms.

Keep an eye out in the coming weeks and months as I'll be posting several blogs to share what I have learned as a PT and a mom.  You don't have to be over 40 or a PT to know what to do to be a strong, healthy mom.  You just need some tips, tricks and the right resources to support your pregnancies and postpartum recovery time. 


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