April 18, 2005
We see more of them everywhere — shopping at Babies ‘R’ Us, working in offices during their last trimester and taking prenatal yoga classes.
They are women over 35 who are pregnant for the first time.
They — and other women who are having kids midlife — are the subject of a new pregnancy magazine called Plum. This sleek, annual tome with a health slant arrives at OBGYN offices this spring. It’s the fruit of a partnership between the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) and Groundbreak Publishing in New York.
Plum, in this case, refers to something especially desirable or prized.
"This shows how far we’ve come from the days when first-time pregnant women over 35 used to be called ‘elderly primagravida,’ " says Dr. Vivian Dickerson, associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California, Irvine. As president of ACOG, Dickerson, together with her colleagues, gave direction, reviewed and approved the magazine’s content.
"There’s nothing out there that focuses especially on pregnant women over 35," she says. "These women do have more medical issues that crop up during pregnancy. Nobody was focusing on that in terms of helping them with advice."
High on Dickerson’s list: Preventive medicine. "Right off the bat, after the table of contents, the first two stories are about relaxing and nutrition."
The magazine’s goal is not to encourage women to wait until 35 to have children, but to acknowledge and address a demographic reality, added Rebekah Meola, Plum’s publisher.
A report from the National Center for Health Statistics confirms that reality: The increase in birth rates from 2002 to 2003 is highest for women ages 35 to 44.
Some specifics: The birth rate for women 35 to 39 rose by 6 percent, and for women 40 to 44, by 5 percent, while the birth rate climbed by 2 percent for women ages 25 to 29 and declined by 1 percent among women 20 to 24.
Those numbers support an evolving trend: Birth rates for women ages 35 to 44 rose by 51 percent between 1990 and 2002, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The magazine reaches out to women who have had difficulty getting pregnant when they were younger, those who postponed pregnancy for financial or career reasons and those who became pregnant after meeting their husband or partner later in life, Meola says.
While many have uneventful midlife pregnancies, some serious medical concerns separate these women from their younger colleagues.
Studies show that women over 35 are at higher risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and miscarriage. They also are at higher risk for Caesarean sections, preterm births, lowbirth-weight infants (newborns weighing less than 5 1 /2 pounds) and infants with genetic defects.
"Because they’re older, these women have been exposed to toxins in the work environment," says Dickerson.
The premiere issue of the magazine tackles some of these issues. One story addresses trends in assisted reproductive technologies for infertile couples. Another discusses what women can expect from screening and diagnostic tests each trimester, as well as genetic counseling. Still another features a roundtable discussion among six women about pregnancy and life as a mom after 35.
And in many stories, the viewpoint is directed toward, or from, the eyes of women who draw from experiences and wisdom that may develop with the passing years.
A profile of Sara Moulton, host of "Sara’s Secrets" on cable’s Food Network, reveals something that might make other mothers sigh with relief: Even this famous chef eventually fed her babies jars of baby food and take-out after struggling with puréeing meat and freezing it in food trays.
Although the magazine is free, it looks and feels expensive, from the heavy stock to the elegant but friendly design reminiscent of Real Simple magazine.
Plum’s target readers are a desirable demographic group with more disposable income than younger pregnant women. "They’re more highly educated, and they have higher income levels," says Meola.
"I think we’re more emotionally and financially prepared," said Diedre Gale, 37, of Dana Point, Calif. Gale, a Web site designer who married in her early 30s and recently gave birth to her first child. She says she welcomes the idea of a magazine that’s tailored to women like her. On her magazine-reading wish list: "A section for dads on what to expect, how to make yourself feel pretty because things don’t snap back as fast when you’re older, and how to take care of your body and self-image."
Dickerson acknowledges that the magazine will have some, but not all the answers. And if medical information changes midyear that makes some information in the magazine no longer valid, then ACOG will find another way to address that immediately, she said.
Dickerson hopes that the free magazine, at least, will inform women and be a tool for dialogue. In her introduction to the magazine, she wrote, "Use Plum with your doctor. Read it and ask questions."