Parenting and Pregnancy Over 35 – Myths vs Facts

Most women over 35 are fearful of having a baby because they view the common misconceptions as truth. My goal is to ease their fears by dispelling the myths with facts. Let’s look at four popular pregnancy and parenting myths.

MYTH: Babies born to mothers over 35 will have Down Syndrome.

FACT: Down syndrome occurs when a baby is born with three, rather than two, copies of the 21st chromosome.
The effects of Down Syndrome vary from person to person but can include mental retardation, certain facial features and heart defects. No one knows for sure what gene(s) causes Down syndrome. Because younger women give birth more often, eighty percent of children born with Down syndrome are born to women younger than 35-years-old. The chance of having a baby with Down syndrome does increase with the age of the mother. However, according to a report from the March of Dimes, most women over 35 have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies.

MYTH : Mothers over 35 do not have the energy to attend to the needs of a baby.

FACT: I always laugh when I hear this one. Show me a mother under or over 35 who doesn’t feel overwhelmed at times especially doing the first year of motherhood and I’ll show you a mother who’s in denial. Or she has a slew of servants.

The average newborn cries more than any new mom ever anticipates. The average newborn sleeps from 15 minutes to 2 hours before waking up for feeding. Translation: The best scenario with the best baby. Mom gets to bed at 11:00 p.m. She is awaken at midnight by the sweet whimper of her newborn. She is awakened at 2 a.m by the sweet whimper of her newborn. She is awaken at 4 a.m. by the crying of her newborn. Baby does not want to go back to sleep until 5a.m. You tell me what woman whether she is 25, 35, or 45 wouldn’t feel zapped after getting out of bed several times at night to feed or just to hold and comfort her crying baby?

The truth is taking care of a baby is hard work and does require lots of energy. It’s important to eat healthy and, every now and then, to allow people you trust to watch your little one for an hour or two while you take a break.

MYTH 2: It is unfair to a child to have older parents. Children will become orphans or have to take care of older parents, etc.

FACT: What is unfair is for a child to be raised in an unloving environment. I’ve talked with many adults who were raised by parents who neglected them. Fortunately, a grandparent filled the void with lots of love and care. I’ve never heard any of these adults complain or make reference to their grandparents’ age.

I do believe that all parents, young and old, should have a plan in case they become disabled or suffer a long-term sickness. This will alleviate some of the burden for their children. Interestingly, studies show current older mothers are better educated, more stable and displayed more patience and other qualities that were beneficial to the development of a child. Combined with love a child soars in this environment.

Perhaps, the best response to this myth can be found in an article written a few years ago, the May/June 2002 issue of AARP Modern Maturity magazine.

In this article Richard Paulson, M.D. chief of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at the University of Southern California School of Medicine says the orphan issue is overblown and points to former patient who in 1996, at age 63 became the oldest woman in the world to give birth.

At the time of the article the former patient was 69 and her daughter was five. Both were healthy, though the former patient was receiving help with childcare. Guess who was helping her? Her 90 year old mother!

MYTH 3: Children of older parents will resent or be ashamed that parents are not the same age as the parents of their friends.

FACT: Newsflash�By the time children become teenagers many will go through a stage when they resent or are ashamed of their parents. The age of their parents have little to do with the emotions of being a teenager.

For every teenager who is ashamed of his older parents I’ll show you another who is ashamed of his younger parents for other reasons.

A teenager may be ashamed because his thirty-something year old dad is not as good of a basketball player as his classmate’s dad. Or his dad drives a car from prehistoric times while his classmate’s dad drives a car from the future.
A fourteen year old teenage girl may be ashamed because her mom is not as slim and as pretty as her best friend’s mom. Or that her mom wore out of date shoes to a Parents Day at her school.

I believe the number one fear of teenagers since the beginning of time has been the fear of being embarrassed by what their parents think, say or do.

Easing your fear about this misconception shouldn’t be difficult. Remember that most children go through rocky stages during their teens. This has nothing to do with the age of their parents.

Hopefully, as an older parent, you will be able to use wisdom, love and patience to guide your child through the teen years.

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