I’ll never forget when I first saw the term on my medical record: “Elderly Multigravida.” There it was, like a death sentence, confirming all my worst fears: I was old, and dying of something very, very grave.
But, in fact, I was 35 and enjoying a healthy pregnancy with my second child.
“Elderly,” in the language of obstetrics, refers to expectant mothers who are 35 or over. (Multigravida means I had been pregnant more than once. If it were my first pregnancy, my code would have read “Elderly Primagravida.” Just as bad!) But this is just one in a litany of quasi-ageist terms knocked-up over-35’s are blasted with: There was “advanced maternal age,” “geriatric pregnancy,” and the fact that I was considered “high-risk.”
Am I being over-sensitive? As a health editor, I should be used to this, right? Or is age 35—the number that’s been creeping in the back of every woman’s brain since we first heard it in sex ed—really the age that your chances of having a healthy pregnancy nosedive?
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Shannon M. Clark, MD, MMS is a double board certified ObGyn and Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist, and founder of Babies After 35. In her roles as a clinician, educator and researcher at UTMB-Galveston, she focuses on the care of people with maternal and/or fetal complications of pregnancy. Dr. Clark has taken a special interest in pregnancy after the age of 35, which according to age alone, is considered a high-risk pregnancy. In her role as a physician caring for high-risk pregnancies, she has counseled and treated hundreds of women over the years in her very own situation, and has found a whole new respect for the challenges and complications a woman may experience when trying to have a baby later in life.
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