Mothering yourself

None of these situations may affect you personally, but changes in society at large influence the way you experience motherhood. When the very definition of family is fluid, it is natural that women feel insecure. Today many women delay motherhood until their careers and relationships are firmly in place. The postponement creates another set of challenges: Established lifestyles must shift as women sort through their need to work and their desire to stay home with their infants. Is it any wonder that women giving birth today need special support?

First-Time Mothers over Thirty-Five

Since 1982 there has been a dramatic increase in the number of women having first babies at age thirty-five and later. Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964 are entering their later childbearing years, and many of them have delayed motherhood. According to John Hansen, M.D., who reviewed the literature on maternal age and pregnancy outcome, these two factors were expected to increase the over-thirty-five age group's proportion of total births by 72 percent between 1982 and the turn of the century.

Statistics on pregnancy and labor outcome for first-time mothers older than thirty-five are varied and inconclusive. These women have a higher rate of complication during labor, including a greater number of Cesarean sections, but the research does not differentiate those who were healthy during pregnancy from those with medical problems, such as diabetes and toxemia. Most authorities agree that if you are generally healthy, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy diet, your chances of having a normal labor should not be any different at thirty-five than at twenty-five. Statistics, however, do not address the special emotional concerns and stresses that affect the older woman.

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