Conceiving a child at age 20, 30 or 40 and older: advantages and disadvantages

The decision to have a child does not depend only on us women: we need to find the right partner and usually we try to have a certain economic as well as emotional stability before starting a family. For this reason, nowadays it is always more difficult to be able to deal with a pregnancy at 20 or so.

However, age has a certain influence on both the physical and emotional aspects of a pregnancy.

Becoming mothers between the ages of 20 and 30

From a purely physical point of view, the years between 20 and 30 represent the best period to face a pregnancy. There is a greater chance each month of conceiving a child; menstrual cycles have stabilized and are no longer the same dancers as in adolescence, which means that it is also easier to monitor ovulation.

Furthermore, at this age the oocytes are of excellent quality.

Not only is it easier to get pregnant but also the pregnancy itself goes ahead with less likelihood of complications.

A younger body is usually better able to handle the extra weight on bones, back and muscles during pregnancy. Your joints are minimally worn, and you are probably at the peak of your physical and health condition, far from the problems that can arise with increasing age.

And if the mother is young, it is probable that the grandparents are too, who may therefore be more willing to help look after the baby.

The risk of pregnancy-related complications is generally low at this age, but there are exceptions such as   preeclampsia , or pregnancy-induced hypertension. Preeclampsia is not age related but usually occurs in the first pregnancy and women of this age are usually having their first pregnancy. There may also be an increased risk of low birth weight of the baby, if the mother has adopted an inappropriate lifestyle such as smoking, poor diet, and had sex at risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

If this age from a physical point of view represents the best time to get pregnant, in other respects it is not necessarily the case.

Not everyone feels ready to have a child at this age . Especially if the woman wants to focus on her career or relationship. At 20-25 you may not yet have had enough time to meet your needs, such as career success or simply spending time alone with your partner.

Becoming a mother between the ages of 30 and 40

Many women over the age of 30 have reached a certain maturity both personally and professionally. This makes them more emotionally prepared for pregnancy.

In this period of their life the egg cells are more mature than in the previous decade and therefore it may take a few more attempts to be able to get pregnant. On average, in fact, it takes 3 to 6 more months of targeted attempts in the absence of problems that can decrease fertility such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids. The real drop in fertility occurs after age 36.

Once pregnant, you can enjoy the same well-being as a woman 10 years younger. Physical well-being during pregnancy depends more on who you are, how good you feel about yourself, than how old you are.

If over the years the woman has put on a few extra pounds, it can increase the risk of hypertension and diabetes. But even if you’re in great shape, those over 35 have an increased risk of certain pregnancy complications like gestational diabetes.

35 years also marks a limit for “at risk” pregnancies. Why this definition so scary? Because at age 35, the odds of having a child with a chromosomal problem such as Down syndrome (where a child is born with an extra chromosome) while still being relatively low (about 1 in 356) is significantly higher than the risk of a 25-year-old (1 out of 1352). For this reason, over 35 recommend prenatal diagnosis .

It also increases the risk of placenta previa  (when the placenta grows near the neck of the uterus and causes bleeding), a risk linked to the number of previous pregnancies or cesarean sections that occurs more frequently, for obvious reasons, in women of this age range.

Becoming a mom over 40

Over 40 you are certainly older in years but also wiser.

From a strictly medical point of view, this is the most difficult decade to be able to get pregnant and continue the pregnancy. In fact, very high quality oocytes are in short supply, making conception unlikely. This also increases the risk of chromosomal abnormalities and the frequency of miscarriages. Meanwhile, your menstrual cycle can become more irregular as we approach menopause.

It is interesting to note that, although it is more difficult to get pregnant, at the same time this is also the age period in which it is more likely to have a twin pregnancy which is always and in any case a risky pregnancy regardless of age. The hormonal imbalance that can exist in a woman approaching menopause can stimulate the release of more than one egg cell during ovulation and this exposes her to the risk of multiple pregnancies.

The risk of having a child with Down syndrome is about 1 in 97 at age 40 and 1 in 23 at age 45.

Pregnancy can exacerbate chronic conditions but also the first signs of aging, such as stiffness, aching joints or varicose veins. You can also gain more weight than in previous pregnancies and due to a slowdown in metabolism.

But don’t be scared, there are a number of positive advantages that can balance out what has been said so far.

At this age, greater financial stability is achieved, which can allow the woman to focus more on motherhood. Her life experience may have made her more patient and flexible.

Obviously motherhood can upset a long-established routine but the experience accumulated over the years allows women to face difficulties and novelties with greater tenacity. And they also have more awareness of their own possibilities and rights, in the world of work as well as in healthcare. They know what they want and know the means to put it into practice.

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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