There is a LOT of misinformation floating around about trying to get pregnant in your thirties.
Depending what you read, if you are conceiving after thirty then you’re dramatically reducing your chance of conceiving. It seems like there is the perception that some sort of switch gets flicked on your 30th birthday. What’s more, you’re being selfish. Really, selfish?! It is up to me when I squeeze a melon out!
In 2018, there are so many reasons that you, like me, might’ve waited to take the plunge into motherhood.
You’ll learn in this article that there are ways to ensure 30 is just a number. There are sex positions, lifestyle choices, foods and more to make sure that 30 is just a number.
An article on Time Magazine suggested: “A healthy 40 year old can have a much less risky pregnancy than a healthy 28 year old,”. If you know the secrets, follow the right advice and prepare then age doesn’t have to be a barrier.
In this piece you’ll read about:
Chapter 1 – Why Are Women Leaving It Later?
Before we jump into the why, I thought it should at least confirm that women are in fact leaving in later.
Within my group of 30 something friends, none of us have children. However, I didn’t want to rely on my own biases and experiences. Maybe I’d just surrounded myself with people like me. So, the next couple of paragraphs look at the trend in the UK, US and across the world.
The results are even more surprising than I expected!
The Overwhelming Evidence
Since the 70s, there has been a steady climb in the average of age of first time mothers in the US. While the age looked to be stabilising in the early 2000s, it has kicked on again since. The US isn’t the only country seeing this trend. It is something being seen across the developed world:
The same trend is being seen in the UK:
The Guardian shared a Google sheet of data for live births in the UK in 2012. In this data, for babies born within marriage, the 30-34 and 35-39 categories were far and away the most popular categories:
Births In Marriage/Civil Partnership
The top row is the age of the mother and the 1st column is the average age of the father.
|Live Births||All ages||Under 20||20-24||25-29||30-34||35-39||40-44||45 and over|
|65 and over||207||–||3||27||62||65||36||14|
When looking at the data for births outside of marriage, there was an interesting change:
Births Outside Of Marriage
Like before, the top row is the age of the mother and the 1st column is the average age of the father.
|Live Births||All ages||Under 20||20-24||25-29||30-34||35-39||40-44||45 and over|
|65 and over||71||–||6||6||22||21||10||6|
Conclusions From The Data
Firstly, the number of of births outside of marriage had almost caught up the number of births inside of marriage. While I know that getting married to then have children is a little traditional, I’m surprised the numbers were so close.
Secondly, the average age for those outside of marriage was distinctly lower than those in marriage. For those outside of marriage, the most popular groups were 20-24, 25-29 and 30-34. By comparison, the popular groups for those in marriage were, 25-29, 30-34 and 35-39.
Finally, there were almost 10,000 births to fathers over 50 and almost 2,000 to women over 45.
There are some quite fun things to spot in the data if you have the time 🙂
For example, there were 4 women ages 40-44 that had a child with men/boys under 20… 29 women in that age group were married to men aged 20-24.
So what are the reasons that women are choosing to wait later.
Just Why The Wait?
It seems like a cop out but each and every woman will have their own reasons. Only you will know why you haven’t decided to try to become a mother yet.
From my perspective, I know some of the reasons I’ve waited:
- Wanting to have a career.
- Not being with the right partner.
- Fear of what would happen to my body.
- Wanting to have financial security (the average estimated cost of raising a child is £200,000)
- Having friends in the same situation.
- Anxiety about whether I could cope being a mum.
- Wondering if am I really grown up enough?
- Wanting to test out my skills with a pet (the dry run).
- Plus hundreds more that I might not even realise.
However, branching out from my own ideas and reasons, these were the top reasons I found from research:
Reasons Women Are Having Children Later
There are dozens of different reasons and personal circumstances that mean women are choosing to wait that little bit longer to have a family. A heap of these reasons apply to me. That’s probably why they’ve made the list.
1 – Wanting To Enjoy Life
This is a really vague reason. It covers a host of things but is often the one I hear most. The logic being that enjoyment ends when the baby comes. From TV, film and other media, it seems that life as you know it basically ends when you have a child.
While this may or may not be true, it does mean that women are thinking twice before making the decision. In my brain, if I had had a child in my 20s then I wouldn’t be ready to party again until my 40s and partying in your 40s is just a little sad. How do you ever really know that you are ready for a baby until you have one?
The thing is, I don’t think it is even that I want to party, it is more that I don’t want the freedom to choose to be taken away from me.
2 – University/College
More and more women are going into advanced education. That means, by the time you finish, you’re already into your early 20s and saddled with mountains of debt. I don’t think it is all that surprising that women aren’t then thinking, “I want to start a family” straight after they gradate. For me, I also left university in the middle of the recession. I was lucky enough to find a full-time job that was relevant to my degree, despite the low pay. My first thoughts were to find somewhere affordable enough to rent so I could start saving for a deposit on a property. Babies were kind of an assumption, but as they say, they were not even a twinkle in my eye at this point!
I think one of the reasons that university and college are impacting on the average age of conception is the fear of ‘wasting’ your degree.
What was the point in me doing my degree if I was only going to pop out a kid?
I’m over £50,000 in debt and yet in the same position as if I hadn’t bothered.
I know this is a simplistic way of thinking about it but the thought does cross your mind. If you’ve completed a degree then you want to do something with it, or at least try to. Only once you’ve tried, whether the result is failure or success, do you then want to start thinking about children.
What’s more, by going to university, you’ll have surrounded yourself with others that don’t have children on their mind. The friends you had from school that chose to start a family when they were young have probably been left behind. That’s natural, you are doing different things and in different places. Nonetheless, you are inadvertently surrounding yourself with people that also want to wait to have kids.
3 – Having A Long Term Partner
Most of us seem to have an idealised plan in our head. Does this sound familiar:
- Together for 2 years.
- Then live together for a year.
- Then married a year later.
- Then wait a year to try for our first.
While this might not be your exact plan, there are loads of us that have something like this in our heads. If we discount the high school and university sweethearts then this plan is pushing conception later and later. If we met our partner at 24 then the we’re not trying to conceive until 29. If we don’t meet our partner until 27 then it moves to 32.
For me, I had to throw my plan out of the window. At 29, I had to leave my long term relationship and abandon my 5 year plan (it got changed to a 2 year plan). To be honest, the 2 year plan might scare most men off, thankfully not in our case.
Plus, in 2 years can you really get to know someone well enough? A child is a bigger commitment than marriage, you don’t want to rush into anything and the 5 year plan does make perfect sense. Just in a world of online dating and more time ‘having fun’, the average age of conception keeps climbing.
I love this piece on Vogue, it really encapsulated my daily struggle. People asking what my age is, then asking if I had a child. When I then answered no, I was greeted by a face that is both a combination of a grimace and an empathetic smile. It really is the sort of face you want to slap! 🙂
If its some kind of family member that you haven’t seen in ages (like this last weekend at my younger cousins baby shower) they’ll ask you your age, and then say no more. You can almost hear the thoughts whirling around their minds. What’s more, I’ve even pretty much come to expect these responses from these people.
4 – Childbirth
There is nothing about childbirth that makes me think it will be a pleasurable experience. Yes, you get the reward at the end, but is the pain really worth it? All mothers will say that it is but that didn’t suppress my doubts. In fact, the lack of women that don’t say to the contrary is a little suspicious. Is this something that mothers just feel obliged to say? Do they deep down think, “God, I’m not sure I’d go through that again?!”
However, there is a significant proportion of mothers that choose to have a 2nd, 3rd, 4th… baby.
While this often isn’t the only reason that women are putting off having a child. It is definitely something in the ‘wait a bit longer’ column.
5 – My Body
This kind of follows on from the childbirth. Like most women, I have a never-ending battle to keep my weight under control. Even after a weekend binge I feel a bit bloaty, let alone a 9 month binge. I know that there are women that still control their diet while pregnant. I just know that I’m not going to be one of those people. Once I’m pregnant then I’m going to go straight for the chocolate, crisps and other yummies!
Both my aunt and my mum are now larger than they’d like to be and both blame baby weight they couldn’t shift. Reading more online, while there are super human instagrammers that lose it straight away, it is a definite struggle.
This sounds like a really vain reason to put other having a baby but I do still care how I look. I want to feel comfortable in my skin. It feels like giving up on my diet and exercise will mean that I’m officially old and I’m not there yet.
Yes, I know that having a baby doesn’t mean diet and exercise have to change but I just know it will. I’m not strong-minded enough to eat healthy and exercise when I’m feeling less than my best.
And its not even the fear of weight gain. It’s the fear of the most horrendous stretch marks (yup, my mum still has them- though back then they literally did tell expectant mums to eat for two!) some women are very lucky and escape them, but yep the fear is real. I know that once we are lucky to conceive I’ll be going through tubs and tubs of tummy butter. Then what happens to your boobs, god knows, there are many a horror story of them becoming saggy and flat, especially after breast feeding. But I’m not one of those women whose kids will be bottle fed as soon as they’re born for fear of droopy boobs.
And what’s more, I know I’m a fairly sleepy person. I know the overwhelming tiredness will hit me like a lorry once I’m a mum. And that’ll be hair and make-up out the window. I do really admire those ‘yummy mummies’ I literally have no idea how they look so good and continue to function as human beings. I know I will probably be rocking the homeless look, and really just wanted to enjoy my late twenties wearing nice clothes and having good hair, ideally with a glass of prosecco in hand.
6 – Your Career
While the world is becoming a more equal place, having children is definitely something that is still a disadvantage. You have the initial 9 months of pregnancy while you are not at your best. If you’re lucky you have an understanding boss, who generally doesn’t mind if you have to leave your desk for the occasional vom or cry in the loo. You then have a year out, which in my industry may as well be a lifetime despite the keeping in touch days.
Then, you’ll being operating on minimal sleep and have to leave work randomly for appointments, nursery pick ups, school assemblies and ear infections for years to come. I admire the women that are able to juggle both, I really do. Coupled with clean hair and ironed clothes? I take my hat off to you, you’re a superwoman!
However, the reality is that it is still a definite choice. I know women that have managed to remain focused on their careers, but then their child has suffered. I don’t want to put work beyond my children. If I’m taking the plunge then I’m going to do it properly, otherwise I know I’ll regret it.
7 – Choosing Not To
I wasn’t alive decades ago but I’ve watched the films, heard the stories and read my history books. In years gone by, it was a woman’s duty/role to have children. My grandparents will sometimes ask about babies before asking how I am. It offers an insight in the mindset of the previous generations.
Now there are millions of women choosing not to have children. They have complete lives and don’t feel like they have any ‘gap’ that they need to fill. They’ve never got that feeling, that maternal feeling. Or, they just don’t feel like they’d make a good mum, having only just mastered their own lives.
With an increasing number of women deciding against children, it’ll become more commonplace.
8 – IVF & Other Fertility Treatments
We will cover this topic in more detail later on the article but IVF is becoming an increasingly popular choice. Moreover, IVF isn’t the only option for older women wanting to have a child. With celebrities managing to have children in their 40s, women aren’t feeling the same urgency. In the past waiting could’ve been considered dangerous. What’s more, you might have been risking not being able to have children altogether.
Nowadays, the landscape is completely different. There isn’t the same level of pressure. Effective marketing by fertility clinics is convincing women that they can wait and wait and wait. The reality is very different but if you are already wavering, the fertility treatments offer a great way to push the decision down the road.
Chapter 2 – How Does Fertility Change With Age?
Unfortunately, like the rest of our body, our eggs grow old. We have a finite number of eggs and they do age. As we grow older, both the quality and quantity of our eggs decreases. In fact, Your Fertility describes age as the single most important factor affecting your fertility (they also have some other great resources, not directly related to this article). While the age of the man does also have a negative impact on his fertility, it isn’t to the same extent as for women.
At the age of 30, a woman has approximately a 20% chance of conceiving each month, by the time she is 40, the chance falls to 5%. While the chance of conceiving decreases from the age of 32, it accelerates from 35.
Unfortunately, the more and more I read online, the more I’m realising that for every story of a 40 year old first time mum, there are likely to be hundreds of heartbreak stories that just don’t get the same attention. Celebrities can use expensive treatments to improve their chances but even then, the odds are not in their favour.
What Are The Reasons
Before we examine, the reasons, the good news is that if you are patient, you’re likely to be rewarded. If you’re aged 30-34 then you have a 94% chance of conceiving in 2 years. If you are 35-39 then you have a 90% chance. For all the doom and gloom that I have read in researching this article, those numbers are somewhat reassuring.
There are a couple of main reasons that fertility declines quite dramatically with age.
Firstly, the quality of the eggs that you are releasing declines with age. A decrease in quality means there is a reduced chance of conception. Furthermore, some women can even reach their menopause or experience the early signs of it before 40. Having irregular periods or no periods will make it even more difficult to conceive.
Secondly, as you grow older, the likelihood of blocked fallopian tubes increases. This is because, as times progresses, if you have a pre-existing condition or an infection you are not aware of, this will have had time to develop into something like pelvic inflammatory disease, which can block your tubes. Making conception impossible. In addition, if you suffer from a condition like endometriosis, the progressive thickening of the fallopian tubes, due to scar tissue, can make conceiving increasingly difficult.
Increased Chance Of Genetic Disorders
While there will be reasons that mean it is more difficult to conceive as the years pass, there is also the increased chance of genetic disorders. Some of the best known genetic disorders include:
- Down syndrome – This occurs when someone has a full or partial copy of their 21st chromosome pair. The physical changes caused by the condition include minimal muscle tone, smaller stature and unfortunately life expectancy is lower. If you want to find out more about the condition then NDSS.org have a great resource.
- Turner syndrome – This is a condition that will only affect girls.
- Marfan syndrome
- Cystic fibrosis
- Sickle cell disease
Chapter 3 – The Lifestyle Choices You Can Make To Improve Fertility?
From doing our reading over the last five months there are multiple ways of helping to boost your chances of conceiving naturally. From diet choices; you know the drill, eat natural healthy foods– lean meats, dairy, oily fish, whole grains, pulses, fruits and vegetables. I feel like I have definitely upped my intake of pulses including chickpeas and lentils, spinach for folate (in addition to taking the supplements) salmon, broccoli, berries, avocado and full fat Greek yogurt.
To doing regular exercise (not sure I’ve done so much exercise in my life!) including Pilates to build strong back muscles and increase pelvic floor strength and yoga to help calm my frantic mind and swimming. Generally I find water quite calming so head to the pool for a few laps when the anxiety creeps up on me. Exercising also helps to increase the quality of your sleep, which is important to ensure that you are rested and relaxed enabling your body to recover as well as to produce the hormone leptin. Leptin is the hormone which is responsible for regulating your cycles which makes it easier to time having sex.
They say to cut down on caffeine, which saw me kick my daily diet coke habit. Now I have one can maybe every few weeks (usually after I get my period as some kind of sad brown fizzy consolation prize) first I switched to a decaff coffee in the afternoon just to wean myself off a bit. Then after a while I didn’t even really miss it, and when I had it I’m not even sure I was that fussed.
Neither of us smoke or do drugs or any kind so this one was easy. However, I did used to enjoy a drink while out at dinner or meeting friends at the weekends. I have definitely cut down on my drinking, and find that I don’t even really want to drink anymore.
They say that stress can often be a factor in the chances of conception, and personally I find I always have something to stress over the last few years or so whether its big or small. Most recently, having changed jobs I’ve probably been under more stress than before, while I think the whole anxiety around conception is also putting us under stress as a couple, which is hardly ideal.
People often say, relax and it’ll happen, which is hard to hear when you feel that you are trying to do everything right. Personally right now, it would be easy to relax safe in the knowledge that I was about three years younger with more time for things not to be happening. This is definitely the flip-side to leaving it later in life to try for a child.
Lastly, its important to maximise the production of healthy sperm. Get your partner to trade his tight clingy pants for loose cotton boxer shorts, avoid the sauna or steam room at the gym to reduce over heating the testicles and cut down on the cycling.
Chapter 4 – Why Having Your First Baby After 30 Could Be The Best Decision You Ever Make
Studies suggest that women who conceive later in life are, on average, more educated and more affluent. How can it be worse to bring a child into a more affluent family? Yes, there are hundreds of reasons the situation isn’t this simple. You do get unhappy children in wealthy families, I know that.
Nonetheless, I would still like to be a position to provide for my child. I wouldn’t want them to be worrying about money. I don’t think i’d want to be so strapped for cash that I couldn’t be the best mum that I could be. For me, having that freedom means being able to work part-time if that’s what I choose. Which means, hopefully having more quality time to spend with my child. It also means weekends can be spent having family time, days out out to the farm and so on without the worry of having to get all the cleaning/food shopping and washing done before it’s time to go back to work again.
Yes, there are hundreds of thousands of mothers that do amazing jobs with virtually no money. I’m not sure that I would have it in me to be one of those mums. I don’t think i’d be able to separate my money worries and be myself.
I admire those that can but I don’t think that would be me. Plus, just from my speaking to my friends, I think a lot of women feel the same way.
More and more women want to be in a secure position before they take the plunge. Motherhood is a challenge on its own, without other stresses and worries.