According to the Centers for Disease Control, more and more US mothers are choosing to have their children later in life. While the average age of first-time moms was 21.4 years in 1970, in 2006, the average woman had her first child at age 25. Today, it is not uncommon to see mothers wait until they are in their mid-30s to start a family.
While waiting until you are older to have children means more financial stability and, sometimes, more time to get to know your partner, it can also present serious medical risks. Though many women have had multiple successful pregnancies after the age of 35, it is important to understand the risks before you decide if this is the right choice for you. The following are some of the most common risks of becoming a mother later in life.
The older your eggs, the more likely they are to have chromosomal problems, meaning that older women are more likely to have babies with Down’s syndrome or other birth defects. According to the majority of scientific studies, your risk for birth defects remains low until about age 35.
Fortunately, there are a number of genetic screenings that are routine for women age 35 or older, but while these screenings can identify birth defects, they can’t save you the anguish of deciding whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy that is likely to produce a severely disabled child. One solution to this issue is using IVF with PGS (Pre-implantation Genetic Screening) which tests the embryos for chromosomal abnormalities before being transferred to the mother’s uterus.
According to fertility experts, your ability to conceive decreases sharply once you hit the age of 38. If you wait until you are 40, getting pregnant is significantly more difficult. As you age, your eggs age with you, not only do you have less eggs, the quality of the eggs falls dramatically. Though many women in their 40s are able to get pregnant, most must use fertility treatments which can be highly effective, but also require a significant amount of mental and physical preparation.
In your 40s, again, age matters. As a woman in your early 40s, you’re much more likely to conceive than if you wait until you’re 43 or older.
The older you become, the more you may be at risk for miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and other complications that can put your health and life at risk. You can face high blood pressure, diabetes, or placental problems if you conceive at age 35 or older. Additionally, older women are more likely to deliver their babies preterm or with a low birth weight. Sadly, stillbirth is also more common in this age group.
Every family and every couple is different. Some women are able to deliver healthy babies into their late 30s and 40s without complications or risks. Additionally, some individuals may enjoy being older parents, using their increased maturity and ample finances to raise their children how they see fit.
Other mothers struggle to get pregnant, experience complications, or have emotional and social difficulties as they enter parenthood at an older age. Which course is right for you depends on your health, your doctor’s advice, and what you and your partner are planning for the rest of your lives. However, it is important to know what risks may lie ahead before making the decision to become older parents.
Although there are risks associated with choosing to be a mother later in life, technological advances have also brought hope. For women who are considering motherhood later in life, there are several different fertility treatments that can help mitigate the potential risk factors. This gives older women the chance for a healthy family.
For younger women who want to wait to start their family, freezing eggs is a great way to ensure your own healthy eggs are ready when you are. For older women looking to increase their family size, but who are worried about the risks, egg donors can be an ideal solution. For women of any age who are either unable to carry their own child, or who are worried about the potential risks, gestational carriers can help eliminate much of the risk involved with being a mother later in life.
No matter what your specific situation is, there are plenty of ways to conceive a happy and healthy child later in life. A high-quality fertility clinic can help you determine the best course of action for your specific needs.