Compared to my cousin and many of my friends, my mother had me when she was relatively young, so she was nowhere near 40. It’s been generally assumed that getting pregnant at a moderately young age will yield healthier children and be better for the mother. Getting pregnant too young or too old can be risky for the mother and her unborn child. However, studies show that women who get pregnant during or after their 40’s could actually live longer than women who stop having children at a younger age.
It’s true that there are some health risks associated with having children too late in life, such as having a child with Downs Syndrome or having health complications like developing gestational diabetes. However, there are some advantages as well. For one, you’re more likely to live longer, and there are emotional and financial advantages as well. Women who conceive during their 40’s or later and carry a healthy baby to full term are far more likely to have a longer lifespan, but the study found that it wasn’t the pregnancy that made the women live longer. This is because the study also revealed that brothers of women who gave birth later in life also had an increased lifespan.
Researches have concluded that longer lifespan is a genetic trait, but women with this trait are more likely to be fertile longer and be able to bear healthy children successfully through their 50’s and perhaps even later. The studies also reveal that health also plays a large factor. Even women with the genetic disposal for longer lifespans can live unhealthy lifestyles that hinder their ability to have children after 45.
Despite the risks, more moms than ever are waiting longer to have children, or they keep having children well into their 40’s. In fact, the National Center for Health Statistics reports between 1980 and 2004 the number of women who gave birth at 30 has doubled, and the women who gave birth at age 35 has tripled, and after age 40 the amount of women giving birth has almost quadrupled. Modern medicine has not completely eradicated the risks that can come with a late pregnancy, but it has done enough that more women feel comfortable trying to conceive late in life and their prize is being able to see their children grow up and create a family of their own.
- Perls, T. T., Alpert, L., & Fretts, R. C. (1997). Middle-aged mothers live longer. Nature, 389(133).
- Newman, S. (2008, October 11). Forty (or close) is the new 20 for having babies. Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness + Find a Therapist.
- Barron, J. (2009, May 23). Having babies late in life tied to longevity. Baseline of Health Foundation.