The emancipation of women, the pill, careers, opportunities to travel and the migration from traditions are all key factors to why women are starting a family later on… but how long should you wait?
How long can you wait to have a baby?
The average age of first time mothers is higher than ever. UK mothers now average at thirty years old and the US at twenty six years old; a big jump up from centuries of girls barely out of their teens. Emancipation of women, the pill, careers, opportunities to travel and migrate from traditions are all key influences to women starting a family later on. It is not uncommon for women in their forties to start a family. In fact, in the UK this is becoming the norm. Between 1994 and 2010 there was a 150 per cent increase in women over the age of forty having children and in 2009, there was a 50 per cent increase from the previous year in women having babies in their fifties. But how long can and should they wait?
The key factor is Fertility.
Anyone edging closer towards thirty will mostly likely have been told that their fertility is about to decline rapidly. Not only does this put immense pressure on women and their relationships, but according to the BBC, the dramatic fertility cliff that we have been told occurs at 35 is not 100% accurate and is in fact based on 300 year old science. Information on fertility is confusing. What people don’t often know is that in fact each woman has their own fertility trajectory, with entirely individual expiration dates. Some of us will have no problem getting pregnant at 38 years old and others of us will struggle at 33 years old.
Fertility specialists such as Sherman Silber state that overall, in your 30s you have about a 15 percent chance of getting pregnant in any single ovulation cycle, making the chances of conceiving within a year about 75 percent. However, according to the BBC, “while fertility declines with age, it does not appear to do so as quickly as we have been led to believe. Among women aged 27-34, the study showed that 86% will have conceived within a year of trying. So the 82% figure for women aged 35 to 39 is only a little lower.” And while each woman’s window of fertility is different, doctors agree that a potential 95 per cent of women will struggle to get pregnant in their forties.
The main biological challenge faced by older mothers is that things slow down. Ovulation is less frequent, with lower egg quality, decreased fertility as well as pregnancy related complications (hypertension, gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, placenta previa, preterm labour, miscarriage, high c-section rate and Down Syndrome). There are more detailed screenings to check warning signs. Interestingly, between 35 and 39 your folical stimulating hormone level increases. When this hormonal surge occurs, there is a chance you may release more than one egg during a cycle, creating a multiple birth.
So how can older women best prepare themselves?
There is a plethora of medical options to help women prepare for later pregnancies. Not only is there the 15 billion dollar industry of IVF and egg freezing, but there are drugs to reverse menopause, acupuncture and Chinese herbs, personal fertility sensors and pre-emptive tests such as the AMH test which assesses your ovarian age – how many eggs you have left. Companies like Modern Fertility are popping up offering women more control over their reproductive health.
Photographed Above: Modern Fertility Kit, $160.00 at Modernfertility.com; Priya Personal Fertility Sensor at Priyaring.com; EPT Digital Pregnancy Test, $13.00 at Amazon.com; Conceive Support Supplements, $140.00 at Premamawellness.com; Clue Period and Ovulation App at Helloclue.com
The IVF journey can be a long emotional and expensive process. From consultations, ultrasounds, blood tests and hormone injections, treatments can cost anything upwards of $12,000 for one cycle with little or no insurance coverage. Egg retrieval and embryo transfer are invasive processes. However, the success rate compared to natural cycles in couples with healthy fertility is positive. According to a study of 156,000 women, the average live-birth rate for the first cycle was 29.5 percent. This same study showed success rates for six cycles (over two years), at 65.3 percent. One thing that no one seems to contest is that the younger your eggs, the better the odds are for successful IVF. Egg freezing is touted as the most viable option for dealing with baby-making delays.
Whilst the list of risks can be off putting, there are many benefits to having kids later. Generally the medium for motherhood is happier, with higher income, secure relationships, established careers and firm foundations for a growing family. Women tend to know themselves better and be more relaxed. The younger you are, the less money and resources you have to take care of a child and careers are just embarking. However, the older you get, the more likely you are to find yourself in the sandwich generation, caring for aging parents and children at the same time.