Pregnancy is such an incredible experience regardless of your age, however you can rest assured that no matter what your age and circumstances you will have your fair share of aches, pains and complications.
The average age of first-time mums in Australia has increased to 28.6 with more mums falling pregnant when they are older than this.
We spoke to four mums who were all pregnant in different decades and asked them what they found to be the easiest and hardest parts of pregnancy.
PREGNANCY IN YOUR TEENS
The glory of the teenage body. It’s nimble, it’s flexible, it’s slow to injure and quick to heal. It seems like the ideal time to go through the physical strain of pregnancy. Unfortunately, while the teenage body can easily handle pregnancy – if “easily” is an appropriate word to use in any discussion of pregnancy – mentally it can be incredibly difficult, not to mention the fact you are probably not in a serious relationship, are still living with your parents and don’t have your own money yet. Or does that all make it even easier?
Elizabeth, 37-year-old, mother-of-five who had her first baby in her teens.
Elizabeth fell pregnant for the first time when she was 15. She's also been pregnant at 21, 26, 31 and 34. Her oldest Josh is now 22 and her youngest is 3. Elizabeth says it was definitely easier being pregnant as a teenager because she had no idea what she was in for. "Financially the easiest pregnancy was when I was a teen as I had no financial obligations. I still lived under my mothers roof. No credit cards or car as I was too young. The easiest pregnancy mentally would have been my teen pregnancy. I was so naive and things that should have effected me just washed off like a water on a ducks back. I think my view on the world and my young tender age allowed me to cope with everything."
"Twenty-one was a great age. My body was ready and coped with all the highs and lows of pregnancy. I found my last pregnancy the hardest as I was older. Although I had less complications in the pregnancy than when I was younger, I found it physically harder on my body."
Elizabeth says the main reason her teenage pregnancy was difficult to cope with was due to the judgement she faced.
"Looking at my first pregnancy and how awful I was treated by strangers and medical staff due to my young age. In my thirties it was polar opposite. Strangers were interested and kind and medical staff explained more and offered more help."
She says when considering the physical implications only she feels late teens and early twenties are the best times to be pregnant. "Our bodies are perfectly ready to cope with such a large physical change."
"Mentally I would say the hardest pregnancy would be my last pregnancy. So much worry financially and the impacts the new child would have on an existing family."
PREGNANCY IN YOUR TWENTIES
Pregnancy is most common in your twenties and a seemingly ideal time. Most expectant mums are in serious relationships during this time and their lives and support networks are more established. Even though money might be tight, starting a family is definitely manageable, particularly with access to benefits and maternity leave from jobs helping to pave the way.
Jacqui, 30-year-old mother-of-three
While Jacqui was pregnant at the seemingly ideal ages in her twenties, she's certainly proof of the fact that ease of pregnancy is dependent on so many factors. Her first pregnancy at 25 was her easiest however her second and third pregnancies at 27 and 29 were a little more complicated.
"I had SPD (Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction) with my third child and Hypermesis Graviadum (severe and prolonged vomiting) with number two and three. I was vomiting up to eight or nine times a day. Brushing my teeth would make me sick! It was horrible. I couldn't eat some days and I didn't think I could stand up but I had to because I had other kids to look after. With number two I also had carpel tunnel. I didn't even know about it but I had to wear these braces at night. Otherwise I'd wake up in agony."
Jacqui says her first pregnancy was definitely the easiest but morning sickness during the first few months still proved difficult. Despite the many physical difficulties she's experienced and the fact she is now in her thirties, Jacqui says she's thinking about number four. "Yes, I am thinking about number four. I know that my body probably won't cope as well as it has with the last ones because I am obviously older. I'm still under 35 which is when I'm told your natural fertility starts to become an issue.
Jacqui feels one of the reasons pregnancy is often more difficult when you are older is because you typically have other children to look after. "For me, I've needed fertility assistance with my last two pregnancies so I will probably have to go down that road again, which is not that easy when you have smaller children to take care of. I'm also worried if I get ill again that it will be a lot harder with my other three kids. I've also had c-sections with all of my kids so I'm worried about how I will recover after the surgery now that I'm a bit older."
That's the thing about pregnancy and birth. Despite the difficulties due to age, lifestyle and circumstance, you quickly forget and want to do it again. "I remember these issues being horrible at the time," Jacqui says, "but obviously time makes the memories better because I'd probably do it all again!"
PREGNANCY IN YOUR THIRTIES
More women in Australia are waiting until they are in their thirties to have children because we are making sure we have our finances and relationships in good shape. For that reason it can be said that pregnancy in your thirties is emerging as the ideal decade due mostly to career, relationships, finances and lifestyle. All the lifestyle ducks, so to speak, are often in a row.
Marina, 44-year-old mother-of-three
After suffering two miscarriages in her twenties, Marina was more than ready to be a mum by the time she achieved her first successful pregnancy at the age of 30 and while she was thrilled to bits, things didn't go a smoothly as she'd hoped. She made the rookie mistake of thinking she could eat whatever she wanted.
"It was so hard when I was feeling nauseous and not being able to throw up. I'd eat to settle my stomach, it was the only thing that helped. This meant that I put on a heap of weight the first three months instead of losing or maintaining, which meant I put on double the expected weight I was supposed too!"
Marina then feel pregnant at 32 and then 37. Her last pregnancy was the hardest. "Especially towards the end when I was huge and was so uncomfortable and it was difficult to look after two young children when pregnant with the my third."
As each pregnancy became more difficult, Marina decided her third child would be her last. "Age plays a big factor. My third pregnancy was harder on my body that the first two. My body did not bounce back as well as it did the first two times. If I could do it all over again I would have had babies in my twenties not thirties, although I did try. I have friends who had babies in their twenties and now they are empty-nesters and free to do whatever they wish. Travel, go out to dinner..."
Marina thinks pregnancy is made even more difficult in your thirties due to the workload most thirty-somethings have. Your career may be established and you may have more money but you also have to try and keep up your career and work just as well as you did before pregnancy. "If our spouses helped us more it would be easier to be pregnant. If our spouses realised that during this time (actually at all times!) chores should be shared equally, particularly while we are both working. Actually while pregnant they should do even more!"
PREGNANCY IN YOUR FORTIES
By the time you reach your late thirties and early forties, pregnancy becomes not only more physically demanding but also prone to more complications, requiring extra tests and doctors visits than younger mums. Expectant mums in their forties are normally mums having their last child which can make the experience particularly tough as you have other children to look after. Unless they are old enough to help out a bit. Or you might be blessed to be expecting your first, hopefully completely unaware of how much easier you body would have handled it in your younger years. But you are ready. You are so ready.
Liz, 43-year-old mother-of-two
Working during each of her pregnancies - one in her early thirties then another in her early forties - wasn't all that hard for Liz. Lucky her. "It helps that I have a very understanding boss, that coupled with flat shoes to the office made a big difference. I did leave work a little earlier than planned the second time around but I think that was my boss being a little precious with me because of my age."
She says the aches and pains weren't much worse in her forties however the fatigue was far greater. "I don't recall the aches and pains being any more the older I got although the tiredness in the first three months wiped me out by seven every night during the first trimester."
Emotionally, pregnancy during her forties was much easier though. "Mentally I was a lot more chilled the second time. I needed the road ahead and because of the first c-section We'd decided to opt for that again. Although with an eight year gap I'm sure I'd have been fine to go natural."
Staying calm and embracing every aspect of the experience helped Liz during both pregnancies. "I'm quite level-headed and really actually looked forward to the birth in both c-sections. I had a good laugh and chat with the hospital staff while it was happening. No pain or discomfort at all."
As experiences go, Liz's later-in-life pregnancy seems ideal, except for the need for an early bedtime which probably makes her no different to any other mum. "I've been very lucky plain-sailing through both experiences with only the odd little hiccup."
Pregnancy complications for older mums can include gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, preterm delivery and issues with the placenta. This is why doctors see older expectant mums more often and run more tests. Regardless of your age during pregnancy you can rest assured that you will experience your fair share of aches and pains which will be quickly forgotten once you're holding your baby in your arms.
And don't worry, the enjoyment will increase once they start sleeping through the night - if they ever do.