In 1970, the average age for people to have their first child was between 21 and 22. By 2000, that number had risen to 25. That age is steadily creeping up and more and more people are deciding to wait until they’re a little older before they have children. There are plenty of different reasons for this; perhaps it’s because people are more career focused and want to put themselves into a more stable position before they have kids. There is also less stigma around divorce, and less pressure to get married early so people are waiting longer before settling down for good. In recent years, there have been cases of mothers having children well into their seventies. Twenty years ago, this simply wouldn’t have been possible. That combination of new technology and a change in attitudes has seen a huge rise in the average age of first-time mothers but it has caused some controversy. But what is the reality? How are people having kids in later life, and is it safe?
Advances In Technology
The main driving factor behind the increase in the average age of mothers is the advances in technology. The body is a ticking clock and after a certain age, conceiving is increasingly difficult. However, with the introduction of IVF, those problems started to take a back seat. It was initially very hit and miss but IVF success rates have been increasing steadily ever since. Genetic screening was a huge step forward because it allowed doctors to find the best embryos and avoid any genetic abnormalities that can increase miscarriage rates. Being able to freeze embryos also made a huge difference to success rates because it means that doctors can choose the optimum time to implant them into the uterus to maximize the chances of a healthy birth. Finally, new medication improves the body’s ability to produce eggs in the first place, giving you more chances to conceive.
All of these advances have made it far easier for women to conceive as they get older and this has raised a lot of questions. Some people are concerned about how late is too late, and it has been suggested that it is dangerous to have children when you’re too old. Another concern is that older mothers will struggle to cope after the baby is born. How true are these assumptions and are there any major benefits?
Increased Risk Of Miscarriage
Women that try to have a baby when they’re older will struggle to conceive, but they will also encounter more problems during the pregnancy. The older you are, the higher your risk of miscarriage. In fact, a forty year old is twice as likely to have a miscarriage than a twenty year old. Your risk also increases with each child that you have so if you are trying for another child, it could be too risky. Before you decide to go through with treatment, speak with your doctor about the risk of miscarriage and decide whether you are willing to continue.
More Chance Of Genetic Disease
The older you are, the more likely it is that the embryos will develop genetic problems. These will translate into serious medical conditions when the baby is born. Mothers that give birth in their twenties have around a 1 in 1200 chance of the baby developing down syndrome. However, if you’re 40, the chances are 1 in 100.
You’ll Live Longer
While those risks are quite serious, they aren’t certainties and it isn’t all so bad. There are plenty of benefits to having children when you’re older, including living longer. Most people wouldn’t think that having a child would make you live for longer but the effects are massive. Studies have shown that women that have their last child after the age of 30 are twice as likely to live past 95. That’s a pretty massive difference and puts to rest a lot of the fears that people express about having kids in later life. One of the main concerns that people raise about it is that the parents won’t be around long enough to raise the child into adulthood, but the statistics would say otherwise.
It Keeps Your Brain Healthy
There is also evidence that shows women who have babies after they turn 30 will have improved cognitive powers later in life. During menopause, a lot of women experience a decline in brain function but women that have had babies recently actually experience the opposite. The researchers that conducted the studies believe that the reason for this is that hormones affect the long-term health of your brain, and so having a child later in life releases more hormones than normal and boosts brainpower.
The truth is, having a baby when you’re a bit older is a difficult decision. A lot of the problems that you hear about are genuine, but there are some pretty major benefits as well. The safest option is to speak with a doctor and find out exactly how at risk you and your baby would be.