More and more women are asking themselves what is the best age to have children. In order to answer this question, it is necessary to know all the demands of motherhood.
The age of a new mother in Spain has been increasing year after year to reach 31.8 years on average according to a 2016 study. However, more and more women are becoming mothers after the age of 40.
There are several causes that have led to this delay in childbearing. The main reason is the lack of economic and labor stability in young women, but it should also be taken into account that thanks to assisted reproduction the number of mothers over 35 years of age have been growing.
Provided bellow is an index with the 8 points we are going to expand on in this article.
Biological age of motherhood
The optimal reproductive age for women is between 19 and 30 years of age. A woman's fertility decreases with age until she reaches menopause (the end of the reproductive age) at an age that varies between 45 and 52 years old. As the years go by, the quantity and quality of a woman's eggs decrease.
For this reason, the possibility of achieving pregnancy decreases with age. Among women who do not have any fertility problems, a 20-year-old woman who has unprotected intercourse on her fertile days has a 25% chance of becoming pregnant. If the woman is in her thirties, the possibility of gestation is reduced to 15%.
From this moment on, there is a sharp decline in fertility in women. Approximately, a woman of 35 years of age has an 8% chance of achieving a pregnancy, while after 38 years of age it is 3%.
Due to the decline in fertility and the fact that childbearing is being delayed today, many women are diagnosed as infertile when in fact they are not. What is happening is that their reproductive age has simply passed.
Many women in their 20s and 30s do not consider themselves mature enough or financially stable enough to consider pregnancy. According to surveys, 2 out of 3 women of these ages wish to become mothers, but within 5 years.
From the age of 30 onwards, many women start to feel the biological clock of motherhood and consider that it is the right time. About 40% of women plan to become mothers in a short period of time.
Dr. Gorka Barrenetxea, a specialist in Gynecology and Obstetrics, explains how fertility varies over the years. Furthermore, from his experience, he indicates that:
The social fact that we delay childbearing is affecting the fact that more and more couples are encountering problems and are turning to an assisted reproduction center.
Age does have an influence, especially in the female component.
Advantages of being a mother over 30
More and more women are deciding to become pregnant for the first time when they have reached at least 30 years of age, something that was not in the forefront of their minds quite some time ago. This has a number of advantages, such as those discussed below:
- Have financial solvency and housing.
- The couple's relationship is more stable.
- They feel more mature and capable of raising a child.
- The couple has had plenty of time to enjoy themselves alone and they face the arrival of a child as another stage in their lives.
Here are some of the reasons why the age of 30 is a good time to be a mom.
Inconveniences of delaying childbearing
Despite these advantages, at a woman's older age, gestation carries risks. Although women in their 40s may be fit and healthy, their bodies are no longer well prepared for pregnancy and childbirth.
Listed below are some of the problems we may encounter when delaying the desire for motherhood:
- Risk of developing diabetes or increasing blood pressure.
- Difficulty to conceive, since it may be more difficult or directly unable to conceive and must resort to assisted reproduction techniques to achieve it.
- Deliveries are considered risky after 37 years of age and are more complicated and painful. The cesarean section rate is high.
- The baby's health is also affected by maternal age since with age the child is more likely to have a genetic abnormality. For example, the odds of Down syndrome (trisomy of chromosome 21) are 1/1250 when the woman is 20 years old; while women over 40 have a 1/30 risk of having a baby with Down syndrome.
In addition, by the time the child reaches adolescence, the parents will be in their 50s, which may imply a lack of understanding between the two. Despite all this, there is no ideal age to become a mother. Each woman must decide when is the perfect time to become pregnant and fulfill her dream of becoming a mother.
When is it considered advanced maternal age?
Biologically, a woman presents advanced maternal age after 35-40 years of age for all the reasons mentioned above. The passage of time has a great impact on a woman's ovarian reserve.
In addition, on numerous occasions, older women have poorer quality eggs and tend to have aneuploidy. The main consequence of this is that there is a higher risk of miscarriage or of having genetically altered embryos, which would make implantation in the uterus more difficult.
For all these reasons, specialists recommend preserving fertility if you do not wish to become a mother for the time being. Thus the eggs are frozen at low temperature and can be kept for long periods of time without affecting their quality. When the woman feels ready to become a mother, these eggs will be thawed and in vitro fertilization (IVF) will be performed.
Pregnancy after 40
Women who become pregnant after the age of 35 should also take special care during pregnancy. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a maternal age of 35 years or older is considered a medium risk factor. These are some of the risks associated with pregnancy after the age of 40:
- Higher abortion rate
- while women under 35 years of age have a 15% chance of having a miscarriage, in women between 35 and 45 years of age this rate is between 20 and 35%.
- it has been shown that the risk of suffering from any of these diseases during pregnancy at an advanced maternal age is higher.
- Hyperemesis gravidarum
- consists of a situation of extreme nausea and vomiting during gestation that may even result in the loss of 5% of body weight.
- Higher preterm labor rate
- several studies have shown that the risk of premature and low birth weight is higher in adolescents and women over 35 years of age.
- Placental abruption
- is a serious event in which the placenta detaches from the wall of the uterus. Other risk factors besides age are: smoking, hypertension, excess amniotic fluid, multiple pregnancies, etc.
- Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR)
- this is an imbalance that prevents the correct development of the fetus, causing it to weigh less than 90% of the weight of other babies of the same gestational age.
- Gestational diabetes
- this type of diabetes is detected by the O'Sullivan test, which is performed on all pregnant women in the 24-28th week of pregnancy. In women aged 35 years or older, this test is performed in both the first and third trimester.
However, a woman can carry a pregnancy into her 40s, and even into her 50s, as long as she is in good health. The difficulty at that age lies more in getting pregnant than in carrying the pregnancy itself once it is achieved.
More detailed information on this subject can be found in the following article: Becoming a mother after the age of 40: possibilities and risks.
What fertilization alternatives are available?
As a result of the delay in childbearing, more and more people are trying to fulfill their desire to have offspring through other methods. Reproduction is not something that only depends on a woman's age, but the quality of sperm also decreases with the passage of time, although it is not such a drastic aspect.
In cases of advanced maternal age, it is best to resort to in vitro fertilization (IVF) and preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). This will ensure the transfer of embryos that are genetically healthy and therefore more likely to implant and result in pregnancy.
In cases where the reproductive stage has ended and the woman's ovarian reserve is depleted, the way to achieve gestation will be through donor eggs. This fertility treatment has a high guarantee of success but has the disadvantage of having to give up the genetic load. Therefore, IVF with oocyte donation is one of the most emotionally taxing reproductive options for patients
FAQs from users
What is the ideal age to become a mother?
There is no such thing as an ideal age to become a mother. The important thing to keep in mind is that age is an essential factor for female fertility.
As a woman's age advances, her number of available eggs decreases until they are depleted. For this reason, it is often said that the best age to achieve pregnancy is between 18 and 35 years of age.
After the age of 35, many women find it difficult to conceive. In these cases, the solution would be to resort to assisted reproduction techniques.
Does age influence female fertility?
The answer is yes. As women age, changes occur in the ovaries that affect fertility.
All women are born with a finite number of eggs and no new eggs are produced throughout life. This number of eggs decreases as a woman's age increases until it is completely depleted by the time she reaches the menopausal stage.
Therefore, age is an essential factor for female fertility and for achieving pregnancy.
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Gunilla Sydsjö, Malin Lindell Pettersson, Marie Bladh, Agneta Skoog Svanberg, Claudia Lampic, Elizabeth Nedstrand. Evaluation of risk factors' importance on adverse pregnancy and neonatal outcomes in women aged 40 years or older. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2019 Mar 13;19(1):92.
Sauer M, Paulson R, Lobo R 1990 A preliminary report on oocyte donation extending reproductive potential to women over 40. New England Journal of Medicine 323, 1157–1160.
Syuichi Ooki. Maternal age and birth defects after the use of assisted reproductive technology in Japan, 2004-2010. Int J Womens Health. 2013;5:65-77. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S32296. Epub 2013 Feb 18.
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