Is there actually a ‘right’ age to have a child?

Here’s the science.

Starting the journey to parenthood is one of the biggest steps you and your partner will ever make. And with the wish to become a great mother, comes the dream to welcome a healthy child into a loving new family. Age is a massive factor when it comes to giving your child the best start in life, but there are various aspects that come into play.

Let us take you through some scientific findings that can help determine the best age for motherhood.

Eggs and age.

Creating a new life is the most magical thing your body can do. And while it’s no surprise the woman’s eggs are key in creating this life, you may not realise a woman is born with all their eggs. At birth, females have about 1-2 million eggs, but this number reduces over time; hence the chances of conceiving reduces with age too.

Generally speaking, women are the most fertile before the age of 30. The chances of conceiving naturally begin to decline gradually around the age of 32. After the age of 35 this decline gets a bit steeper until about 5-10 years ahead of going into menopause.

For example, women under 30 have approximately a 20% chance of getting pregnant naturally each month. For women at the age of 40, this reduces to about 5%.

Quantity vs quality.

Apart from your chances of conceiving, there are further complexities that come with age. Because of the changes that happen in both your eggs and your partner’s sperm as you age, there’s a slightly higher risk of birth defects and genetic abnormalities. For example, children of older parents have an increased risk of being born with down syndrome or autism spectrum disorder.

It’s not just your baby’s health that can suffer. Older pregnant ladies have a higher risk of having gestational diabetes, placenta previa, placental abruption, a still birth and a caesarean birth than younger women.

It takes two to tango.

Of course the age of your child’s father has a great impact on the perfect age to conceive too. While your relationship might grow more stable over time, a man’s fertility also declines with age. This decline starts a little later though: around the age of 40.

For example, a woman under 25 is trying to get pregnant: if her partner is also younger than 25, it takes an average of five months to get pregnant. If her partner is older than 40 years, it takes around two years, and even longer if he is older than 45.

Around the age of 40, men have lower semen volume and sperm count. Plus, those little swimmers don’t swim as well as in his younger years. They are also more likely to have genetic abnormalities and an increased risk of miscarriage – regarless of the woman’s age.

A mum’s state-of-mind.

It’s important to know that most babies are born in good health, no matter their parents’ age. So while some would say the best motherhood age is 20 to 30, let’s not rush into things.

There are many reasons to delay your parenthood. Whether you and your partner dream of travelling the world, aren’t financially stable or are simply not ready for whatever reason – there are benefits to holding off on parenthood.

Research shows that women who wait with motherhood have greater emotional maturity and life experience that translates well to motherhood. They tend to be more forgiving and flexible towards the upbringing of their child. This makes them lean towards an authoritative parenting style, which balances reasoning with setting limits for behaviour. This research found that older mothers were less likely to verbally or physically punish their children and were more patient than the younger mothers.

In other research, further benefits of older parenthood were found: their children did better in cognitive ability tests than those with younger parents. And you may already know these types of tests are linked to educational achievements and health later in life.

Take the time to talk.

While there are obvious benefits for your body and health to conceive at a younger age, there are other benefits to postponing your pregnancy too.

It’s clear to say the best age for parenthood is incredibly personal. The only way to discover what age is right for you, your partner and perhaps your future little one – is through conversations together and understanding the risks that come with each chapter in your lives.