Annet Ndutiye had literally hang her boots. She had closed the chapter of child bearing and all her three children were in their teen years.
In her mid 40s, all she was looking forward to was to live long enough to see her grand and great grand children.
Everything was moving as planned until one day, she discovered that she was pregnant in her mid forties!
Panic and anxiety overwhelmed Ndutiye as she wondered how she was going to go through old age pregnancy.
“I was so scared, my children were all grown up and I had closed that chapter,” she says.
Ndutiye, however, says she came to terms with the reality with support of her husband.
“It was a lot more complicated than my earlier pregnancies. I was weak, but I made sure I visited the doctor frequently so that any complications could be ruled out early.Luckily, all went well and I had a healthy baby,” she recalls.
Angelique Murekatete, a resident of Kicukiro, shares a related story of the tough pregnancy she endured in her 40’s. She had endured years of a childless life, but believed that one day she would carry her own child.
Eventually, at the age of 41, when all hope had faded, Murekatete conceived.
“In the 15 years of my childless marriage, happiness was a dream and misery and shame is all I felt every morning. I often cried myself to sleep,” says Murekatete.
“When I conceived, I was over the moon with joy. But I also had worries regarding my health and that of the baby I was carrying. To the people who knew me, I was the biblical Hanna; my conception was nothing short of a miracle to many, including my husband,” she says.
Murekatete adds that being pregnant at 41 came with several changes including exhaustion and a vast craving for things.
“But some people felt I was too old to be pregnant and this gradually affected my self-esteem. Then one day, I met a nurse who changed my life completely,” she recalls.
A Kicukiro based health center nurse offered Murekatete lessons that entirely changed her attitude towards her late pregnancy and the negative energy of those around her.
“She told me that I was going to give birth to a healthy and normal child, but most importantly, she reminded me that keeping my body healthy was the only way to keep my baby safe. Through regular medical check-ups, and the nurse’s encouragement; I was determined to live a positive life, ignoring all the negativity that came with my unexpected pregnancy,” she says.
Today, Murekatete is a mother of a healthy and beautiful three-year-old girl. The baby, to her, is not only a blessing but a living testimony to other aged women who still doubt conception beyond the age of 40.
Ndutiye and Murekatete are just some of the many women who have dealt with having a baby at an older age.Some, however, have chosen to have babies in a later stage of life because they want to build their careers first, or for other reasons.
This, however, according to experts, carries risks for both the baby and the mother.
Richard Paulson, a professor and vice-chair of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, states on babycenter.com that the major impediment for women aged 35 or older is getting pregnant in the first place.
He indicates that fertility rates begin to decline gradually at the age of 30, more so at 35, and evidently at age 40.
Even with fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilisation, women have more difficulty getting pregnant as they age.
“Women aged 45 and older rarely get pregnant even with fertility treatment. Fertility specialists routinely recommend oocyte donation (IVF with eggs donated by a young egg donor) for these women because pregnancies with their own eggs are so rare,” Paulson points out.
Women also have more trouble staying pregnant as they get older. The rates of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy go up substantially with age.
Dr. Claude Bimenyimana, a general practitioner, says that there is a certain stage where giving birth comes with a number of risks.
He says that beyond the age of 35, the body has less physical energy, holding the baby in the uterus is sometimes hard because of the weakness and that’s when cases of miscarriages arise.
“Hormones become weaker as one grows older with age, that’s why there are chances of giving birth to babies with birth defects. On the side of the mother she could experience heavy bleeding, because during pregnancy her blood count tends to be low, this poses a number of risks,” Dr. Bimenyimana says.
At the time of giving birth, there are instances when such women fail to get labour pains; this can lead to exhaustion of the baby and the mother and such cases may result in death.
He adds that the other risk is connected to higher chances of not having a normal birth because of the weakened uterus; this also happens even if it’s the woman’s first child, in such cases they are operated on.
Women who have given birth four times and those aged 35 and above are exposed to a lot of risks when it comes to giving birth, according to Dr. Bimenyimana.
Some women nowadays, because of different responsibilities, get married when they are almost thirty; however Dr.Bimenyimana says that it’s healthier to have children within the age range of 18 and 35.
“There are some women however who have healthy pregnancies and births even at an older age, this can happen as a result of various factors. Some people have better standards of living,” the doctor adds.
When one gives birth at an older age, they, in most cases, can’t have more than one or two children because the chances of getting pregnant are limited. At that age, some eggs have become old, some have poor quality and even the count is limited because every time a woman has a period, she loses an egg.
Parenting is also hard at that age, as responsibilities out power your abilities. Parenting requires a lot of energy, yet one could have a job to attend to, children and the husband to care for all at the same time, Dr Bimenyimana says.
Esperance Mujyawamariya, a nurse, says that women should have a positive attitude towards their late pregnancy.
“Women who conceive at an old age tend to take their pregnancies seriously.But the only worry is how their health will respond to the pregnancy and how the public looks at them. But this is normal, women need to eat well and most importantly, follow advice from their doctors,” she says.
To Mujyawamariya, the challenges of giving birth at an old age might be quite severe depending on one’s body and health status, but they are manageable when all the medical regulations are given attention.
Having a baby after the age of 35 is not an easy stride because of the risks associated with it. Some women do manage to go through the journey safely. However, as the experts point out women should try to have children at least before the age of 35.
I SAY: Older mothers are more passionate
Rosette Aisha Uwimana, housewife
Embracing motherhood at a later age is as good as doing it at an early age, in my opinion. I think a woman who gives birth at an older age, due to different reasons; tends to be a passionate mother, since she believes that conceiving at that age is a miracle. The care and attention that she gives her child is far better than a young mother.
You won’t enjoy parenthood when old
Claudine Namubonye, housewife
Well, if there is nothing wrong with one’s health, I don’t see the reason why a person would wait till such an old age to give birth. I believe giving birth at an early age gives you the opportunity to have a good time with your children in your youth, when you’re energetic to socialise with them avidly.
It’s better than having no kids at all
Phiona Kamikazi, empoloyee - Money Transfer Company
Late motherhood is a challenge, like cases where people, including your own relatives, mistake you for a grandmother. There are also health related issues, but still, having a child is worth a try at any age. There is nothing worse than living a childless life when you know you had the opportunity to have a child of your own. I believe a determined woman should embrace motherhood regardless of her age.
What’s important is being a good mother
Jackline Musabyimana, vendor
I don’t think age should limit a person from being a mother. What’s important is whether she will be a good mother. I believe an older mother is more serious and mature, especially when it comes to taking care of kids and making good decisions for them. Late motherhood is a fine thing.
Compiled by Dennis Agaba
Age and fertility: Getting pregnant in your 40s
There’s no denying your odds of getting pregnant are far lower now than they were just a few years ago. After 45, experts say, it’s almost impossible to get pregnant using your own eggs. At the same time, many 40-plus women do get pregnant, some using fertility treatments and some not. And there may be benefits to waiting to have children – for both you and your child.
Advantages of waiting to have children
There are some definite benefits to becoming a parent when you’re older:
•You’re more experienced. Probably the greatest advantage of waiting to have children is that you’ve had time to grow and to see the world. You’re probably more secure financially and more comfortable in your career. It’s likely you and your partner have had the chance to get to know each other in a variety of circumstances, which can be a solid foundation for raising a family.
•You’re wiser. There’s some evidence that older mothers are, in general, better educated than young mothers and make wiser parenting decisions. They’re also more likely to breastfeed and, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, to make healthier nutritional choices for children, such as choosing whole fruits rather than sweets or sugary drinks.
•You’re more financially secure. Waiting to have children also has financial benefits. One U.S. study found that a woman’s earnings increase 9 percent for every year she postpones having a child.
•Susan Heitler, a family and marriage therapist in Denver, Colorado, believes that the best time to have children is in your late 20s to early 30s, but she also sees pluses for couples who wait: “Parents in their 40s are often more focused on their children than younger parents are,” she says. “They’ve had time to travel and to have a broad range of experiences before having children. They have less financial pressure and more of a ‘been there, done that’ attitude toward partying and 60-hour work weeks.”•Nicole Rogers, a mother of five and sales director at the San Francisco Marriott, says that at 41 she has less energy than she used to, but on the other hand is a wiser and more patient parent.
•“In your 20s and your 30s, you tend to put too much pressure on yourself as a parent,” she says. “You think it will be a disaster if things don’t go just right. If you don’t have time to buy a present before a birthday party, for example, you stress out about it. As an older parent, I find things don’t bother me as much.”
•On a practical level, “when you’re a single parent in your 20s and you’re late for work, it can cost you your job, which means you may not be able to pay the rent,” she says. “Now I have job and financial security. I’m a lot more relaxed.”