The Benefits and Risks of Getting Pregnant at Different Ages
Hollywood has babies on the brain.
From Amal Clooney's twins to the Kardashian Klan's baby boom, our favorite celebrities are getting pregnant at almost every age, and they're not alone. According to a CDC study published earlier this year, the number of women conceiving in their early 40s has gone up about 19 percent in the past decade. Even so, age 35 reigns supreme as the medically ideal age to have baby, according to the study.
We did a little digging to find out what some of the benefits could be to having children at what's considered the optimal age and waiting past age 35 (considered "advanced maternal age"). According to, Dr. Thomas Molinaro, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at the Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey, mothers who choose to have their children between ages 20 to 35 are more likely to have a healthy, easy pregnancy.
RELATED VIDEO: 12 Ways to Soothe Heartburn in Pregnancy
Teens are at risk of complications like premature delivery and low birth weight, though according to Dr. Molinaro, “it's unclear whether that has to do with just being younger or some of the socio-economic factors that come into play during teenage pregnancy (maybe they're not taking care of themselves the same way, they're not going to prenatal care, and other things like that).”
Choosing to have your first child in the "advanced maternal age" bracket, which Dr. Molinaro agrees is "a terrible name for any clarification,” could complicate a pregnancy with low birth weight, early delivery, or giving birth to a baby with chromosomal issues due to the higher likelihood that older women could have diabetes or high blood pressure. “Even a healthy 45-year-old is going to have a harder pregnancy than a healthy 25-year-old.”
We also caught up with Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, the Clinical Professor of OBGYN at Yale, to talk about pregnancy. She said a big reason women generally have trouble getting pregnant after age 35 has to do with ovulation: “Unfortunately we do start seeing a slowdown in many women's ovulatory activities: how well they've ovulating, how well they're making an egg and releasing it.”
That said, Dr. Molinaro insists that getting pregnant over the age of 35 is still possible, especially with the help of IVF treatments. “For most women, the sweet spot for IVF is between 35 and 42, meaning that we do best with patients in that age group,” Dr. Molinaro told InStyle.
Dr. Minkin also said that waiting could have many benefits for a woman’s life, especially now that women are putting their careers first, climbing the academic ladder, and waiting to get settled into relationships. “There aren't too many women who are say, president of Chase Manhattan Bank by age 30,” Minkin said. “From a biological perspective, someone in her late teens, early 20's, would be most fertile, but of course many women at that point aren't ready to have a kid. It’s a balance between a woman's physical maturity and what's going on in her life.”
Likelihoods aside, Dr. Molinaro believes that proper prenatal care and seeking the advice of an obstetrician who can help manage your pregnancy are very important factors to successful family planning. If women experience painful periods, irregular periods, have a history of cancer treatment or surgery to the ovaries, then going to a reproductive specialist sooner rather than later could make the difference in getting pregnant. “There is no set answer for everybody,” Dr. Molinaro said. “And it’s important that each woman has the opportunity to tell her story and evaluate her situation to make the decision that’s best for her.”
Pre-existing health conditions coupled with age can be determining factors when figuring out a woman’s likelihood for successfully getting pregnant. For example, women who smoke are more likely to have ovulation issues and women who are obese are more likely to experience other pregnancy issues.
As a first gauge, Dr. Minkin suggested doing an at-home ovulation predictor test or ovarian reserve test to help with initial understanding of your body’s ability to get pregnant. “These tests are pretty accurate and you can get a first approximation of are you ovulating well? Are you ovulating on time? Is your ovarian reserve good? All these things, which you can do at home, will give you some extra information, rather than just your age or just your health status, as far as thinking about pregnancy.”
For more information on the right time for you to get pregnant, check with your doctor.