Monday, 14 January 2013

What is the perfect age to have babies?

I read an article in the paper yesterday talking about the best age to have a baby. It seems it’s 34 – but that depends on who you ask!

I decided to do my own research and the results were interesting. A lot of the latest internet articles refer to a “recent” study by Dr John Mirowsky. I’m a little concerned as to how this has been deemed a “recent study” given it was published in 2002 and used data from a 1995 telephone survey! But, I digress – it seems to be what everyone is quoting at the moment.

According to him, the late teens or early twenties are the best “biologically” speaking. That’s when a woman’s eggs are “fresh and the body’s reproductive and other systems are at a youthful peak.” Women in this age bracket haven’t had time to live a life of ill repute, damaging their bodies with the afflictions us “older” ladies fall to – drinking, eating, smoking etc. They have lower rates of infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth and other birth-related problems us “older” ladies seem to experience. However, I’m glad to see Dr. Mirowsky admits to this being a bad “social time” to have a child – where the parents are still children themselves, have a shaky financial base and can face societal shuns.

My mother had my brother at 21, and had a brood of 3 children by the time she was 25. She had no fertility problems, no miscarriages and no real issues giving birth. But she was a young mother and a young wife and with my father, their life was tough. My parents often went without so we could have what we needed. It was just the sacrifices they had to make.

When I was 21, I left Australia for the first time to move to Italy. I was gallivanting around the world without a care in the world – skiing the slopes in Switzerland, boating in the Mediterranean, cycling through the German countryside. Kids were the last thing on my mind despite the fact I was working as a nanny!

Dr Mirowsky considers all of this, taking into account the definition of “best age.” I think that definition is a personal choice, however, considering life expectancy of the mother, overall health, morbidity rates and a few other things thrown in for good measure, Mirowsky came up with the magic number of 34. The problem is Angelo Alonzo did a similar study in 2002 that determined 35 was the latest a woman should have children. Apparently, after 35, women have high systolic blood pressure, blood glucose, poorer health and poorer mobility later in life than women who had children before 35. So according to these two researchers, at 37, I’m well past my prime! I’d like to see them stand up in front all of the women I know who have had children after the age of 35 and tell them their findings!

It’s funny that 35 seems to be the be all and end all as other studies will tell you that’s the age a woman’s fertility starts to plummet – like falling into an abyss kind of plummet. Again, I’d like to see someone tell that to my friends who fell pregnant first go after 35! But, according to, pregnancy in your 30s has pros and cons – just like any age I’d imagine! 

In your 30’s, you’re still young enough to be energetic, more confident, more likely to be in a stable relationship and financially secure. However, miscarriage and ectopic pregnancies rise and down syndrome and cesarean rates are higher - normally caused by higher incidences of foetal disorders. So overall, you’re likely to be ok until 38 or 39 and then it’s in the hands of the baby gods!

The problem with all of this research is it doesn’t consider what age you actually find someone to have a child with! If I had of met my husband in my 20’s, maybe we would have had children sooner and maybe the outcome would have been different. But, I didn’t and it wasn’t. I’m all for women choosing to be mothers on their own and it was something I was prepared to do if needed. However, it was never my first choice, so here I am at 37, married for nearly a year, wanting to become a mother.

I’ve come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what age you have a child, there will be ups and downs. It’s not like all the problems associated with pregnancy only happen to women at one particular age. Women in their 20s have miscarriages, women in their 30s have healthy babies, and women in their 40s get pregnant on their 3rd attempt! Then you get the medical miracles like women who fall pregnant naturally at 54!

In the end, I think the perfect age to fall pregnant is when you fall pregnant. If you’re like me and in your mid-30s, there’s no point wondering what would have happened in your 20s because it didn’t happen. I know that given my age, there are higher risks and increased difficulties. However, I know women my age, and older, who have given birth to perfectly healthy babies, so bugger a perfect age, I’ll stick with where there’s a will there’s a way!

Image by Sujin Jetkasettakorn
Courtesy of

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