What’s the best age to have a baby?

by Aimee Jakes |

When planning to start a family, it can sometimes be tricky to decide when the 'best age' to fall pregnant is.

Of course, the 'perfect age' vastly varies from person to person. Some feel ready to start a family in their late teens whilst others prefer to wait until they have travelled the world and made a real a stamp in their career.

Everything from your relationship status, career, upbringing, fertility and whether or not you need your kitchen renovated ASAP can all effect your decision on when you have kids. "One age isn't right for everyone!" shout women everywhere. However, it's important to be clued-up on your biology and the risks that come with having children later.

When do experts say is the best age to fall pregnant? What do the mums (from M&B's Facebook group #mumtribe) think is the best age?

Here's everything you need know to make an informed decision...

What's the average age women start a family in the UK?

According to The Office Of National Statistics, women are starting families far later than previous generations. The average age of a first-time mum is now 30, compared with 29.8 years in 2012 – four years older than in the 1970s. This is the first time that the average age has entered into the three-decade mark since records began in 1938. Men on average, are 32 when they become fathers for the first time.

The best age, according to our mums at #mumtribe:

We asked mums who have already been there to share their stories about what they think is the best age to start a family. When did they decide to have kids? Do they have any regrets? Their responses were brilliant...

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1) Hannah Parmer

I was 31, but would have loved to have started having babies sooner and to have been a younger mum but unfortunately the time was never right and I just wasn't ready!

The best age, according to your fertility: 

Although every woman will have her own choice to make, the simple truth is that a woman's fertility doesn't last forever.  Women are born with all the eggs she'll ever have—about 1 to 2 million of them, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The number of eggs you have, begin to decline once they start menstruating (normally around 12-years-old).

A woman’s fertility will continue to decrease every year (regardless of external factors!) as the quality and frequency of eggs slowly decrease.  Even if a woman is not ovulating (e.g. if she is taking the contraceptive pill, or is pregnant), the number of eggs continues to decline at the same rate. A woman's fertility begins to drop during their 30's, especially after the age of 35.

However, men are not born with sperm and instead produce it daily. Their fertility begins to decline in their 40s and its caused by the diminishing number and quality of sperm they can produce. Regardless of age, men can still have fertility problems even if they're ejaculating during sex.

Women are actually the most fertile when you're a teenager and though your body is ready for babies when you're younger, it often doesn't provide the right circumstances for women to have children at that age.

The late teens or early twenties are 'best biologically', according to John Mirowsky, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin. That’s when 'oocytes are fresh and the body’s reproductive and other systems are at a youthful peak'.

Women in their twenties are also less likely to suffer from complications during pregnancy and birth that could put the baby at risk. They also have the lowest rates of miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, stillbirth, and infertility. However, Mirowsky also points out that being age 20 or younger, has it's problems too. He explained pregnancy is 'more likely to happen out of wedlock, more likely to interfere with educational attainment, and more likely to crystallize a disadvantaged status.'

What is a geriatric pregnancy?

Geriatric pregnancy is a term occasionally used for having a baby when you’re 35 or older.

What are the risks of having babies after 35?

In an ideal world, women should be free to choose when to start a family based on personal and professional circumstances, however, there is still little that can be done to reverse declining fertility and reproductive ageing.  One study published in the journal Human Reproduction found that women in their late thirties are about 50 percent less likely to get pregnant during their most fertile days than women in their early twenties.

According to the NHS website, the risks of having children when older are:

  • Greater difficulty in concieving child

  • Increased risk of complications for both mother and baby during labour

  • Higher risk of miscarriage in women above the age of 35

  • Higher risk of having twins or triplets, (which is associated with higher risk of complications)

  • Increased chance of having a baby with a congenital abnormality, such as Down’s syndrome

  • Increased risk of pre-eclampsia

The truth about being pregnant in your 30s

The benefits of having children later

It's not all doom and gloom for women who are planning/expecting babies later in life. A London School of Economics study found that children born to mums ages 35 to 39 tended to score better on cognitive tests at age 10 and 11 than those born to younger mums. The study highlighted that older mums often have higher levels of education and better finances, which the researchers say could contribute to having smarter kids.

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