For women trying to plan a family and a successful career, the biggest decision is deciding when. Should I become a mom at 25, 30 or wait until 40?
Everyone has the right to decide when to have children. Each situation is different, and so is each person.
However according to Dr Tony Falconer, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), young girls should be taught in schools, alongside education about teenage pregnancies and contraception, that ages 20 to 35 are the best times for a woman to have children.
Earlier, rather than later?
Falconer, who is also the leader of the UK’s maternity doctors, warns against the trend towards older motherhood. He advises women and couples to become “better at resolving the conflict” between their careers and family planning.
“It’s never our responsibility [as doctors] to tell people when they should have their family, because there are all sorts of societal pressures,” he told the Guardian in an interview. However, “there’s no doubt that between 20 and 35 is the time to have your children. We are building up a difficulty for ourselves as a society by people’s expectations that they will wait until they are older. That’s a very complex issue, but it is a problem.”
Needless to say, this view is a controversial one, and as one of his colleagues cited, Falconer could be viewed as a “quiet radical.”
However, according to Falconer, there is strong evidence that women who leave starting a family until they are 35 will have reduced fertility, and as such find it more difficult to conceive, even more so once they reach 40.
Age versus mother’s health
Older pregnant women are also more likely to face medical complications. These include a greater risk of stillbirth, cancer, miscarriage, multiple pregnancies, foetal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome, the need for a caesarean or assisted delivery, a heart attack – even if this is rare, he said. Other researchers support this, adding that more youthful eggs are less likely to carry a tendency for Down’s syndrome or other genetic abnormalities, with the chances being around only 1 in every 1,600 births for women age 20. However, there are other interesting studies that only partially agree with these statistics, and claim that the health of the mother is really the determining factor, and not just her age.
These researchers have found that women in the age group of 34-44, who were in good physical health, have nearly the same chances of producing a healthy baby when compared to those who were 25 years old. According to their studies, there was only a slight statistical advantage for young women. Therefore while being young is certainly helpful for getting pregnant, there is definitely more factors, than just your age which will determine one’s ability to conceive.
Things to consider before getting pregnant
Many women want to choose for themselves what the best age to get pregnant is. All parents agree that a baby is a huge responsibility, and a life-changing decision that needs preparation and consideration. It is always best to have a reliable partner, who can help you through your pregnancy and to raise the baby. As well as a stable home environment and financial security so that you are able to care for yourself and your baby. But ultimately, this is your choice to make.
Your body in your 20s
These are your most fertile years. Your periods are most likely regular, and most, if not all of your eggs, are ovulatory. However, even though you are very fertile, you still may not conceive exactly when you want to. The average woman between 20 and 24 years old has about a 20 percent chance each month of getting pregnant when she has unprotected sex.
Your blood pressure is also probably within its healthy range. Most women in their 20s have a very small risk of developing hypertension during pregnancy. New research shows that you have about half the risk of gestational diabetes than women in their 40s.
Your emotional self
How you feel about your pregnancy may depend, in great part, on other things in your life. Some women who postpone job advancement to have a baby feel ambivalent or resentful at first, says Diane Ross Glazer, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Woodland Hills, CA. “Another concern is body image, which is a bigger issue for most women in their 20s than for those who are older. Also, a woman at this age is likely to be focused more on her marriage than on other parts of her life, such as her job, and adding a third person into the mix may be difficult,” says Glazer.
Risks to your baby
Even though your baby is less likely to be born with a birth defect at this age, it’s interesting to note that more infants with these disorders are born to women in their 20s. This is because most women in this age group have more babies, while women past 35 are more likely to be offered screening tests – and may even elect to terminate a pregnancy in which the fetus has a birth defect.
So whatever you decide, remember to talk to your doctor before getting pregnant to look at your risks, and advantages. Also, preparing for pregnancy means you can get your body in its best possible shape to carry your baby. But whatever you decide, this is ultimately your decision to make.