Join 3,433 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How long can you wait to have a baby?
June 20, 2013 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Everyone knows that female fertility begins a rapid decline at thirty-five. Or does it? In the Atlantic, Jean Twenge dismantles the data and reaches a startling conclusion: many oft-cited statistics on female fertility are based on data from pre-twentieth century populations, whereas studies on contemporary populations yield very different results. Might the mid- to late-thirties be the ideal time to have a baby? Twenge suggests we consider forty as the new cut-off for pregnancy.
posted by artemisia (56 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
40 as the "new" cut-off? It seems to me that forty has been the point at which people start getting seriously concerned about the mother's age for as long as I can remember.
posted by yoink at 11:18 AM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Fertility is not the only concern related to aging. Birth defects and complications related to pregnancy also increase quickly with age (male and female).
posted by stopgap at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh man, does that mean that my parents have FIVE MORE YEARS to bug me about grandchildren? Do not let them see this article.
posted by Elly Vortex at 11:27 AM on June 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Also when it comes to getting up at 2 AM to change a diaper or feed the baby... in the immortal words of Danny Glover, "I am getting too old for this shit."

But to be serious, the world has changed a lot and the notion of when the "right" time to have a baby is also changing and no longer is just about the mother's age.
posted by GuyZero at 11:27 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Fertility is not the only concern related to aging. Birth defects and complications related to pregnancy also increase quickly with age (male and female)."

Yes, the article discusses this. Except that last bit (the male side). I saw the results of a study a couple of years ago — sorry, can't come up with a cite — that correlated miscarriage/defects to the ages of both the mother and father and found that the father's age accounts for a large portion of this. I think the inflection point, so to speak, was older for men than women, late forties and fifties for the father for increased miscarriages/defects.

The point, though, is important: it's not all about the mother. Which, sadly, seems to be the conventional wisdom.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:30 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My wife and I both turn 38 this year, we have a 3 year old and a 10 month old. We briefly considered a third but aren't going there not so much for fertility reasons as much as I don't want to have very young children well into my 40s. Surely that's at least as much a consideration as the health issues for most people.
posted by jimmythefish at 11:30 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Fertility is not the only concern related to aging.

Retirement planning and paying for college at the same time is suicide inducing.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:37 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is this where I'm supposed to come in and say "Whatever you do, have those babies before the hot flushes start" ?
posted by infini at 11:39 AM on June 20, 2013


Also when it comes to getting up at 2 AM to change a diaper or feed the baby... in the immortal words of Danny Glover, "I am getting too old for this shit."

I probably didn't think about it this way when my girlfriend got pregnant when we were 24 but now, 24 year later, my co-workers are all complaining about dealing with their little kids while my kid's out of college already. On the other hand, I'm kind of hoping that he and his girlfriend wait at least until he gets a job.
posted by octothorpe at 11:43 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I got accidentally pregnant with my first and only child ON MY 40th BIRTHDAY! I will say, however, that I had had quite a successful career by this time and was fully prepared to cut out of my working days and dedicate myself to being a full-time mom. Little did I know it would turn out to be a second career! I have no regrets. We did go through an awkward stage when my son was younger and he noticed other parents were younger. But that passed as he got older and realized that, while I may be older, I am more fit -- financially and physically -- than a lot of the other moms he knows.
posted by zagyzebra at 11:52 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The advice from my maternal/fetal specialist was pretty on point, I think. The earlier you start trying (all other things being equal, obviously, she was not advocating teen pregnancy), the sooner you can figure out if there's a problem, and the longer you have to potentially fix it.

But I am in my late 20s, married, with endometriosis and an allergy to progesterone, which can (potentially! maybe! who knows!) increase the risk of miscarriage. I was told, flat out, that she did not want to see me in her office at 35.

All this to say, that the author is very much right in that the risk of infertility is in general overstated for women past their mid-30s, but that has little bearing on any individual woman's risk factor.
posted by lydhre at 11:56 AM on June 20, 2013


I was not in a position to start a family until I was 38. I went to see my OB-GYN, and expressed my concerns about being able to get pregnant at that age.

"Pffft," said my doctor, "You're only 38. You've got a good seven years left. How many kids do you want?"

I'd internalized so much anxiety about being "old" way before it was merited. I had two kids without any fertility assistance, and everything turned out great.

That bit about being too old for the grinding contstantness of parenting toddlers, yes that is keenly felt.
posted by ambrosia at 11:59 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I prefer to wait until I'm fully ready to deal with all of the implications -- health, finances, lifestyle, choice of home, emotional well-being, the works.

I'd rather suspect that I'd be a lousy dad in my current state than try it and find out that I was right all along.
posted by delfin at 12:03 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


That bit about being too old for the grinding contstantness of parenting toddlers, yes that is keenly felt.

Indeed. And if I'd known my ability to go entire nights without sleep as a young adult was actually a useful baby-raising skill, I would have had kids much earlier.
posted by davejay at 12:08 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I really liked how the author searched for the primary sources of the data. I often feel very skeptical of medical statistics and conclusions cited in the popular press, without having any expertise myself. Just skepticism about sweeping pronouncements, especially made with flimsy data. I think Gary Taubes (who I understand also may have come to some unjustified conclusions) has ruined my faith in medical/nutritional journalism.
posted by Malla at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


As a 35-year-old with a four week old baby, I can confirm that my capabilities at 3am when operating on 4 total hours of sleep in the past 24 hours are much diminished from what they would have been when I was in my Twenties.

I reminisced to my husband that once upon a time I'd been able to go out clubbing all night, stumble home at 4, sleep until 7 and still be able to put in a full shift of retail work the next day. That kind of stamina is long gone.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 12:16 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a 32-year-old who doesn't have the financial capacity to have a child yet, the headline was great and soothing news. Some of the MeFi responses, however, have scared the shit out of me. Is parenting really that much worse/tiring for older parents? Are there any advantages to being an older parent that aren't financial because I can work for the rest of my life and never be rich? Help me out, people.
posted by pineappleheart at 12:21 PM on June 20, 2013


I'm 33 with a 9mo old who doesn't sleep and a 20mo old who blessedly, does.

I might have had more physical stamina for this ten years ago, but I have waaaaay more patience for my own limits and theirs, now.
posted by annathea at 12:22 PM on June 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


I'm 35, 12 weeks pregnant, and with a nursing 2 year old. Despite occasionally dreading the return of the all nighters, I am glad I waited. I was in no shape mentally, financially, or professionally to have a kid in my 20s and early 30s. I feel like I know myself and my place in the world much better than when I was younger, and thus I feel better able to help my little terror(s) find their place in it too.
posted by girl scientist at 12:29 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that forty has been the point at which people start getting seriously concerned about the mother's age for as long as I can remember.

My wife's med plan (Kaiser) considered 37 the magic number at which you are of "advanced maternal age" and they start quietly suggesting options like amniocentesis, its own barrel of laughs.

Are there any advantages to being an older parent that aren't financial
* Your friends won't ask why you don't come out anymore because they'll know.
* Sweet hand-me-downs.
* Less likely to be sucked into ZOMG, LOOKITMAHBAHBEY!!! because, like, you've suffered through that more than a few times and realize that past a photo on rare occasion, few people outside your relatives give a shit.
* A general tendency towards less Drama.

I reminisced to my husband that once upon a time I'd been able to go out clubbing all night, stumble home at 4, sleep until 7 and still be able to put in a full shift of retail work the next day. That kind of stamina is long gone.

I'm kind of curious to hear from someone who went back into the parenting mess again after year's off. The difference is that you're going to the club every night for months with little chance for a nap.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 12:36 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


When I was born, my mother was 40 years old, and my father was 60. I'm the youngest of 12 children.

It's always nice to be validated.
posted by mule98J at 12:40 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This article is great. It just flabbergasts me that the statistics are so slippery, that no one really can say with certainty what the dropoff of fertility is for women as they age. I mean, how can this be so complicated? It helps the author is a psychology professor; presumably she has lots of experience understanding statistics of hard to measure things. Still.

Also was astounded by the statement "about 1 percent of babies born each year in the U.S. are a result of IVF". 1% is way higher than I would have guessed. IVF is awfully expensive. Also stressful. I have several friends (all late 30s) who had troubles conceiving and went with IVF. It worked out for all of them, but what a lot of heartache and stress and challenge on the way.
posted by Nelson at 12:44 PM on June 20, 2013


Is parenting really that much worse/tiring for older parents? Are there any advantages to being an older parent that aren't financial because I can work for the rest of my life and never be rich? Help me out, people.

Speaking for myself: I'm a lot calmer and more patient than I was at 25. (Still not very calm or patient, but more so.) For me, finding the mental stamina to parent toddlers was a whole lot harder than finding the physical stamina to parent infants, so I'm glad I didn't have kids early.
posted by gerstle at 12:48 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Are there any advantages to being an older parent that aren't financial because I can work for the rest of my life and never be rich?"

Surely just having more life experience and, I don't know, perspective? I know of numerous exceptions to this, and so this is just a generalization, but it's been my impression that older parents are more emotionally stable parents, they're more grounded. That counts for a lot in raising children.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:59 PM on June 20, 2013


Is it just me, or has there been a serious increase in the number of fertility articles lately? It seems like every day there's another wailing siren screaming "IT'S PROBABLY ALREADY TOO LATE FOR YOU" making the rounds. I'm tired of it. Even if this one is in some sense a breath of fresh air telling me I have five more years before I need to panic. We all know that there's limited time, regardless of whether that cutoff is 35 or 40. I also know I have many relatives and friends who have had children in their late thirties and into their forties without medical aid whatsoever (at least two of those accidental, for that matter)(and also in addition to those I know, fewer in number, who have had to seek medical aid). All of these children are healthy. The screaming headlines are enough to drive one crazy. I refuse to read one single additional word on the matter. You can't control everything in life, and there are no guarantees on the decisions you make. Maybe you'll have kids really young and you'll struggle to pay the bills for a few years. Maybe you'll make a decision that results in your needing fertility drugs later on. Maybe you won't meet someone you want to have children with till you're in the later years of your fertility. Life is unpredictable. We learn to deal with it. I doubt these articles are doing much to alter most people's actions.

As for sleepless nights, my job already affords me lots of those, to the point that I envy those with small children, because there's an end in sight for them. So it seems you'll end up with them one way or another.
posted by CoureurDubois at 1:02 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it just me, or has there been a serious increase in the number of fertility articles lately? It seems like every day there's another wailing siren screaming "IT'S PROBABLY ALREADY TOO LATE FOR YOU" making the rounds.

If so, it corresponds with a sudden rash of panicked articles about declining reproduction rates in the U.S. (and other western countries), with particular attention to women who opt out of childbearing. (Here's an example that got a lot of play back in December.)

Coincidence? You make the call...
posted by artemisia at 1:07 PM on June 20, 2013


pineappleheart: "Is parenting really that much worse/tiring for older parents? Are there any advantages to being an older parent that aren't financial because I can work for the rest of my life and never be rich? Help me out, people."

It's EXHAUSTING physically to become a parent in your 30s, but older parents tend to be a lot more emotionally resilient. In my friend group there's a pretty even mix of women who became mothers in their early 20s and women who became mothers in their 30s or even early 40s, and fairly consistently, women in their 20s had a much easier time coping with the physical demands of infancy, but found themselves more frequently overwhelmed by the emotional demands. Women in their 30s were just exhaaaaaaaausted by an infant, but had a lot more emotional resources -- personal emotional stability and self-knowledge, but also often more stable friendships and romantic relationships.

There's no perfect time to become a parent. I definitely would have coped better with the sleep deprivation in my 20s, which was a real problem for me, but emotionally I think I would have been a catastrophe as a parent at that age, I needed some more time to grow up and settle down and learn to be patient.

My parents had several children starting in their 20s and going until they were 40, and my mom basically said, "With the older ones we didn't have a lot of money or experience and we were really young, but we had a lot of energy. With the younger ones we didn't have nearly as much energy, but we had more financial stability and a lot more wisdom and patience, so it probably evened out." You give your child what you've got, which is different at different times in your life, but it mostly evens out.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:12 PM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Speaking for myself: I'm a lot calmer and more patient than I was at 25

Same here. It's a tradeoff- the energizer bunny aspect of being young has been lost, but I gained a lot of perspective and patience in exchange. I do have great incentive for staying physically active, because there are all kinds of fun things we want to do with our kids when they are a little bigger: camping, hiking, diving, exploring. And thinking about doing those things in my 50s and 60s is keeping me on track now in terms of exercising. (And yes chasing after two preschool-aged boys.)
posted by ambrosia at 1:12 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't want to have very young children well into my 40s

My wife and had our second when I turned 40 (and she 36). I will say that I feel like the second child was harder due to age, but in retrospect I think it's just that my average number of hours of sleep per night is more like 6.5 which is slightly above my bare sustainable minimum1.


I reminisced to my husband that once upon a time I'd been able to go out clubbing all night, stumble home at 4, sleep until 7 and still be able to put in a full shift of retail work the next day. That kind of stamina is long gone.

I thought so too, but I routinely go to sleep about 11 and wake up at 5:30, except for those nights when I wake up at 3 because of an anxiety dream of because I heard something. At that point, I'm lucky if I get even another half hour, but the day follows night and I have to be up and at 'em.

I couldn't sleep in even if I wanted to and had appropriate intervention with the kids to prevent them from rousing me. I'm institutionalized. It's just the way of it.

So a few years ago, I was travelling to a conference with one of our junior employees and our flight out was cancelled and rescheduled to the crack of dawn the next day. We were put up in a craptacular hotel, stayed up to around 11:30 talking. I woke up at 4 slightly before the alarm and was in and out of the shower and dressed and fully functional before this young chap had made a pot of coffee and he was in a daze for the next few hours. I've been woken up by my daughter's bouts of croup enough that I can go from dead asleep to triage in a scant minute if need be. And that's what the institution did to me.

1When I worked on the Acrobat team, I was routinely working 60+ hour weeks. At one point, I decided to experiment to find out what my minimum sleep was on a sustainable basis. It's about 6 hours. I can do fewer hours than 6, but not for more than a week. At that point I see snakes climbing in the windows and I will sleep through any alarm.
posted by plinth at 1:18 PM on June 20, 2013


Speaking for myself: FOREVER. I can wait FOREVER.
posted by Lou Stuells at 1:20 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Are there any advantages to being an older parent that aren't financial because I can work for the rest of my life and never be rich?"

Ideally, you would have the body of your twenties and the brain of your forties, to be a great parent. No one gets that, though, so it's a tossup. I had more physical endurance, but mentally, I was a mess in my 20s. But I would have had more access to parental support (younger grandparents), so....eh.

You'll make it, either way. If I had it to do over I might do it earlier, just because I think it's hard no matter when you do it, so there was no real point in waiting. But my kid might not have benefitted from younger parent me. Who knows?
posted by emjaybee at 1:23 PM on June 20, 2013


I turned 40 in February and consider my eggs to be fully scrambled at this point. Of course I don't want to form babbys so it's not an issue for me. Birth control remains tasty and effective.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 1:36 PM on June 20, 2013


My daughter is almost 1; I am 43 and her dad is 49. We are tired. Very tired.

(But pretty relaxed and don't fall for all the parenting book bullshit!)
posted by tristeza at 1:46 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Though, there is the issue of grandparents. My grandparents were older when they had my parents and my parents were older when I was born. Luckily, my family is long lived, otherwise I never would have known my grandparents at all. It kind of scares me to think that if I ever have kids my parents might not be around for much longer afterwards.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 2:17 PM on June 20, 2013


If so, it corresponds with a sudden rash of panicked articles about declining reproduction rates in the U.S. (and other western countries), with particular attention to women who opt out of childbearing.

White women, anyway. Lots of it is thinly disguised race panic.
posted by emjaybee at 2:27 PM on June 20, 2013


The most severe case being in that bastion of white people, Japan?
posted by Justinian at 2:40 PM on June 20, 2013


Japan has its own race issues when you're dealing with birth rates and foreigners, Justinian. But I was only speaking to the articles I see in the US, of course.
posted by emjaybee at 2:45 PM on June 20, 2013


True enough. The fertility rate in the USA is above replacement but only because of the relatvely high Hispanic birthrate. It's just below replacement for Whitey McWhitersons. I agree that the race panic should kick into high gear any day now...
posted by Justinian at 2:52 PM on June 20, 2013


I am glad that I decided long ago that no babies would be expelled from my body (and that last year my mother married a man with five children--one of whom has already reproduced twice) because that very same body began to rebel against me right before my 36th birthday.

I cannot even begin to imagine being pregnant--to say nothing of actual parenting--in the current state of arthritic, as well as source to be determined, pain that I am in.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:09 PM on June 20, 2013


"I cannot even begin to imagine being pregnant--to say nothing of actual parenting--in the current state of arthritic, as well as source to be determined, pain that I am in."

My sister has been pregnant with two children while having two artificial hips and a congenital bone disease that results in pretty severe chronic pain. (I have it, too.)

Being pregnant and being a mother have been very, very difficult for her. However, when she was nursing helped her with pain more than opioids do.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:17 PM on June 20, 2013


One real benefit of having children in your early twenties, that is not obvious at the time, is that it gives you the chance to be a fairly energetic grandparent and, yes, even a great-grandparent in your 60's and 70's, if your progeny are also early reproducers. With a little individual luck, and increasing average lifespan, you might even get to be a great-great-grandparent, and looking into the future, concretely, 3 or even 4 generations beyond your own, one little face (perhaps even sharing your last name) at a time, can be enormously rewarding.
posted by paulsc at 3:31 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


This article confirmed what I have been suspecting for awhile - the panic is overblown, your fertility declines much more gradually than we are usually led to believe.

I just turned 30. I had a moment of anxiety about this and then I decided, that while I'm all for people making the choice for themselves about when they want to become a parent, for myself, I am still busy staying out late dancing and dating random men. I love kids but babies still terrify me and my idea of a good time is less about Elmo or that teething giraffe and more about a good bourbon. But I have time.
posted by mai at 3:44 PM on June 20, 2013


So yeah, this doesn't surprise me much at all, and this happy horseshit drives me batty: And oh jeez let me tell you, I fell for the age anxiety a few years back when I was still single and pining for babbys. Every time I broke it off with a boyfriend I could practically feel my ovaries shriveling, but having grown up in and around households that had unhappy parents in them, I didn't want to inflict that on me or my future progeny. I stayed the course.

Then I met Mr. Offalark and at first he was like "lol babbys what? no we want to go to Europe!" and because I LOVED HIM and it was not all about the breeding, I said, y'know what? I like Europe, too! And we decided to be a childless couple....

...buuuut then one night on a camping trip he looked up at me and said, "I've changed my mind." And I knew WHAT he'd decided to change his mind on, and it wasn't which tent we wanted to buy next. We decided to try post-wedding, even though I was 36 and he was rapidly approaching 40.

Fast-forward to about this time last year and I was pregnant after TWO MONTHS OF TRYING. Then I had a miscarriage! Then I got pregnant again LESS THAN THIRTY DAYS LATER. I was technically still 36 when we started trying (June is my birth month), and 37 when the second zygote got past the magical 20 week mark. She was born in April, and now she's 11 weeks old and cooing away very happily in the Snugabunny next to my desk -- she just flashed me the most awesome smile, in fact -- thankyouverymuch.

I am absolutely certain there are some couples for whom fertility is a real and soul-destroying issue. I feel for them. But as a woman with a career who knows other women with careers who are having babies post-35, I've so far met few who have had the issues I was led to believe were rampant in ladies my age.

That said, I would be willing to believe that the pregnancy itself was a little harder on my body now than it would have been when I was, say, 25. Thank gawd for modern medicine. And also thank gawd for a husband who regularly goes to bed after midnight and does not mind popping a bottle of momjuice in his daughter at 1 AM. We divide the late night/early morning baby routine between the two of us, and consequently we both (more or less) get enough sleep. Huzzah for lazy older parents!
posted by offalark at 4:04 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've so far met few who have had the issues I was led to believe were rampant in ladies my age.

Fertility is a total crapshoot. I knew kids who got pregnant in high school, I knew mid-thirties professionals who had been trying for years. I knew one woman that had two children, with three miscarriages in between. There's no rhyme or reason to it from an outside perspective (there's usually some genetic cause of course). But it's mostly just chance and most people get lucky.
posted by GuyZero at 4:09 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


But it's mostly just chance and most people get lucky.

I'd say they're all gettin' lucky, ifyouknowwhatImean.
posted by offalark at 4:24 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying..."

Yours is an interesting story, and I have one related to it.

I'd heard that statistic a long time ago, and by "a long time ago", I mean sometime in my early twenties, in the eighties. I'd remembered it something like "the average couple attempting regularly to conceive will take more than a year".

So, one night, when my long-distance girlfriend had just that day flown down from Canada to visit me, we find ourselves in the guest bedroom because I'd insisted that another couple, old friends of mine who were also visiting, sleep in my bedroom. But my condoms were in the bedroom. And my GF and I hadn't seen each other for two months. So, I very sincerely repeated that bit of trivia to her, being certain that the actual risk of an unintended pregnancy was extremely low. We were young — I was 25 and she was 19. But still.

For the rest of her visit, we used condoms. And then she returned to Canada.

She was pregnant.

And the best part of this story, really, is that I grew up knowing that my mom's pregnancy with me was unintentional, she was 18, and that she got pregnant the first time she had sex with my dad. Well, I actually had always been skeptical of that part, thinking that maybe they didn't want to admit they'd been having sex before that (though I don't know why that would matter at that point). But then it happened to me.

"But it's mostly just chance and most people get lucky."

The lesson is one that applies to a large number of other contexts. Statistical generalizations about populations don't at all mean that individual people can't and won't radically deviate from those generalizations.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:44 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, crap. It's a good thing no one in my office reads this site; I think I had finally managed to get them to lay off me about my lack of a kidlet by playing the "No. Really. 36 is waaaay too old to be trying. All the good eggs are long gone and our Catholic employer will not be willing to help out with the conceptioning." card. No one tell them, k?
posted by jacy at 5:50 PM on June 20, 2013


Is parenting really that much worse/tiring for older parents? Are there any advantages to being an older parent that aren't financial because I can work for the rest of my life and never be rich? Help me out, people.

I had my son when I was 19 and my daughter when I was 29. With my son, I had tons more energy. With my daughter, I have tons more patience. I feel like I probably made a lot of stupid, but idealistic decisions with my son that I haven't made with my daughter. (For example, I no longer see the harm in letting a kid believe in Santa/Easter Bunny/etc. The magic will fade from their lives soon enough, I don't have to hurry it along.) But, I feel like I'm somewhat less flexible and less spontaneous with my daughter than I was with my son (a last minute trip to the beach sounds like work now instead of an adventure, as another example.)

So basically, I think that you're picking which set of advantages and disadvantages work best for you. There is no exactly perfect time to have kids, so have them when you want to. (And I've found that my kid's teachers and doctors take me more seriously now with my second child than they did with my first. Probably because with my first, I was younger than all of them, and now I'm older than most of them.)
posted by headspace at 7:14 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are there any advantages to being an older parent that aren't financial...

This site says: "There are a number of positive aspects to having a first child in midlife. 1) A new parent who is between 35 and 40 years of age has about 15 to 20 years of adult life experience and so has more inner resources to draw on in times of stress than does a younger parent. 2) Middle-aged parents are usually at the height of their earning power, so they have more financial stability to support a child. 3) Having had many experiences, many middle-aged adults are ready to be parents. They have a sense of identity — the child will not have to provide them with it. 4) Having a first child in midlife provides a real sense of renewal. 5) Adults in midlife may have a deeper sense of the value of life itself, and so tend to place high value on the time they can spend with their children."

I agree, especially with #3. (I was 44 when our son was born, my wife 40.) It's anecdotal, of course, like most of this stuff, but it seems to me that the kids we know born to older parents are much better set up emotionally. (If nothing else, middle-aged people should be much smarter about how not to have kids, so any child they do have will be desired.)

studies on contemporary populations yield very different results...

And as women keep getting older before having children, for whatever reason, the statistics will keep changing, proving the old statistics to be wrong.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:29 PM on June 20, 2013


It is fascinating to learn that most of the fertility research has been conducted using data from historical populations. I never thought about how the advent of birth control would impact this knowledge, even though it seems obvious once it was pointed out. Of course, I didn't spend much time thinking about my own fertility until fairly recently, so this was conveniently timed. Though I would rather not think of a specific age range as the an "ideal" as there are so many individual factors involved.
posted by Hopeful and Cynical at 10:26 PM on June 20, 2013


Thank you so much for posting this article. I enjoyed it immensely. It's great to see yet again how the standard medical advice related to pregnancy and childbirth is based on crap science.

Is parenting really that much worse/tiring for older parents? Are there any advantages to being an older parent that aren't financial because I can work for the rest of my life and never be rich? Help me out, people.

I think this really depends on your health and how much you exercise. I had way more energy in my thirties than in my twenties because I started exercising in a serious way.
posted by medusa at 10:32 PM on June 20, 2013


Going purely on anecdotes and personal experience, I find the older parents are more easy going and have a better sense of identity claim to be false. Of all the helicopter parents, the 'look at my child, this is who I am' parents, the stressed out over if they are doing it right parents, the slightly too invested in being a parent being their identifying feature in life parents - nearly all of them are people who had children when they were 35 and older. I am not saying that having children when younger is necessarily better (I had my son at 28, which seems neither old or young) but in my experience parents are first and foremost people, with all their differences and foibles, so if you are talking about emotional stability/suitability to be parents, I am not sure age makes that much of a difference.
posted by Megami at 2:13 AM on June 21, 2013


Thank you for posting this article. I shared it with a friend and I know she thought it was interesting too.

I try to be a logical person and make rational decisions. When it comes to major life-changing decisions in particular, I try not to let external factors dictate whether I should do something. I try to focus on when it's right for me. For example, I would like to buy a house someday. It's been difficult lately because interest rates were low but it wasn't the right time for me. My husband and I have talked about it and we agreed that we would rather be in a position where we can afford a serious down payment and possibly a 15-year mortgage instead of 30.

But I feel like my age is a factor I can't ignore when it comes to starting a family and that's frustrating. I'm at a place in my life where getting pregnant would not be The Worst Thing Ever but it's still not a great time. I know that there's no perfect time and that's the way it is with a lot of decisions - buying a home, quitting a job, starting a business - but waiting when it comes to starting a family is much more fraught. If I could put the whole thing off without worrying about adverse consequences for 5-10 years, I'd be okay with that.

I have an IUD and I like it but I think one of the things that's different about starting families today is that it seems like there's less of a surprise factor. That's definitely a good thing in some ways but in others, it makes me a little sad. In most movies when a character announces that she's pregnant, it's a huge surprise, even to the husband. For me, it would be like, yeah, well, that happens when you get your IUD removed. Or when labor starts and the woman's water breaks and craziness ensues! I'm not opposed to planned c-sections but it makes me kind of sad that that would mean knowing ahead of time to the time of day when a kid would be born. Perhaps saying that birth control is a mixed blessing makes me a bad feminist but oh well.

I feel badly because I think I want to be a mother but I have a hard time separating that out from the occasional feelings of soon-or-never. I don't want to make that decision from a place of fear (I am running out of time!!!!!!!111!!!!!) but I feel like that's my only option. I don't have the luxury of saying, let's see if that's what I really want five years from now. So articles like this one give me hope. I always worry that being hopeful after reading an article like this is an invitation for fate to punch me in the face but I would rather be hopeful than fearful about the future, especially when it comes to my future family.
posted by kat518 at 7:21 AM on June 21, 2013


Couple 45 and 46 here, mid-life soon to be one year old is fascinating, inspiring, and as a new older parent; it's great to be older, more mature and stable. Too easy. Spouse's son has already been overseas and back; babybaby will be an Uncle in a few more months, and babybaby is mid-life happiness for both of us. Our little circle of life moment has done more to motivate me to further myself for the next 20+ years ( or to even ponder the next 20+ years of work ) than I ever could have imagined.

Our concerns past the initial 'We're pregnant' stage were the age charts related to birth defects. I was fully prepared mentally for a special child. I looked at teh 10% chance ( or 13% as the article has ) of birth defects more as a 87% or 90% on a test or as an odd. A 90% success rate is pretty good. .

Spouse had her embryonic fluid at 70% over normal, and 9,317 scans ( places love good insurance, and I read my eyes blind and worried to no end about safety of ultrasounds... I mean, microwaves use frequency to cook stuff! ) later, babybaby was c-sectioned due to umbilical cord being wrapped around its trunk and neck. Quite the fluidic explosion in the hospital when she was first cut open, stuff everywhere. Hindsight subjectivity, I figure the excess fluid was nature's way of buffeting the baby from the cord wrappage. C-section itself looked like a frisbee with the center cut out had been inserted into spouses stomach.

Through the entire 'get pregnant to birth process'; I would remind myself that the charts, studies, and statistics rarely focus on health, diet and exercise, or plain out '~normalcy' of the couple trying to conceive. Lots of studies on alcohol and drugs affecting pregnancy and fetal health; but I never saw the 'a comparative study of healthy and active 40+ year olds attempts at pregnancy' thesis. I respecfully have to figure a quarter to a third of most folk have much better than statistical chances to conceive due to longitudinal choices of living styles.

I know people from work, very successful, driven, accomplished, ... and the stress of their hyper-careerism seems to be impairing fertility.

Get lucky and do it. First time parent at 45 is a breeze, too easy.
posted by buzzman at 1:06 PM on June 21, 2013


"Are there any advantages to being an older parent that aren't financial because I can work for the rest of my life and never be rich?"

As a 51-year-old mother of a 7-year-old, I feel that I have plenty of energy to deal with him. That has not been as issue. I also feel that I am infinitely more patient than I was when I was younger, and I don't sweat the small stuff.
posted by cherrybounce at 8:43 PM on June 21, 2013


CJR highlighted this article in their latest issue: Your fertility, checked.
posted by zarq at 11:06 AM on July 16, 2013


« Older Master Bedroom, Extra Closet: The Truth About Gay ...  |  Debenhams, an international ch... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments