Today, mothers are likely to be 35 years or older than when conceiving their first child. Twenty years ago, this was not the norm. While the number of first-time mothers who are 20 to 24 years is dropping, the number of births to women who are in their 30's and 40's keeps climbing. Over the past 20 years, the number of women having children into their mid-40's and beyond has tripled.
Assisted reproductive technology includes:
- In-vitro fertilization (IVF) where fertilization takes place outside the body. The egg and sperm are put in a laboratory dish and in 3-5 days, the embryos are implanted into the woman's uterus.
- Zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT) also known as Tubal Embryo Transfer involves laboratory-based fertilization where the very young embryo is transferred to the fallopian tube instead of the uterus.
- Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) is where the the eggs and sperm are placed in the woman's fallopian tube so that fertilization takes place in the women's body.
- Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) is used in couples where there are serious problems with sperm or with older couples who have failed IVF attempts. A single sperm is injected into a mature egg and then, the embryo is transferred to the uterus or the fallopian tube.
Several other techniques involve egg freezing, frozen embryos, surrogates and donor eggs make it possible for a women to, indeed, have it all and have it when she wants to become a mother.
I've spoken before about possible problems in children who have been conceived via IVF. (Click on the blue font and you'll be able to access the article. It's important).
#1. You might live longer! Well, you'll have to in order to be a grandma! Believe it or not, there's a journal called Menopause and they published a study that found that women who had their last child after the age of 33 are more likely to live to 95. These mothers actually had twice the chance of living to 95 or older than those women who had their last child before their 30th birthday. It's the same promising news for women having babies after 40.
Wow. A study that took place over the course of 21 years involving 20,000 women concluded that having your first baby even at the age 25 or after increased your chances of living into your 90's.
#2. We're smarter. If you have your last baby after 35, you'll have better brain power after menopause. There's a caveat here. Brain functioning may be improved and the chance for memory loss is decreased if you used a hormonal contraceptive for more than 10 years OR if you began menstruating before the age of 13.
The thinking here is that hormones impact long-term brain function.
#3. Increased Income over time. Yes, we work hard for the money! There have been multiple studies that show the association between the age when you have your first child and both income and losses. If you start your family when you are older, chances are, you'll make more money over the course of your lifetime.
The researcher who co-authored the study, Raul Santaeulalia-Llopis was quoted as saying, "Children do not kill careers, but the earlier children arrive, the more their mother's income suffers. There is a clear incentive for delaying." The relationship between mother's age at the first birth and her lifetime earnings is significant for both women with and without college degrees.
Women younger than 25 had the greatest lifetime loss of income while there were lifetime financial gains for those who were 31 years and older when their first child was born.
#4. More education for mother means better educational and emotional support for baby. Those parents with more secondary education can also offer more specific enrichment to their children which is a powerful developmental tool. Reading, engaging in constructive play and a more reasoned approach to parenting positively affect long-term child development and achievement. It doesn't hurt if resources are plentiful, parents are likely to be more relaxed and have the time to engage their children.
#5. The kids fare better in the long-run. Waiting to have children even until age 40 or older results in a more well-adjusted, well-educated and overall, healthier child. These kids are likely to stay in school longer, earn higher scores on standardized tests and were more likely to go to college than their peers who were born to younger mothers.
Interestingly, the child who was born when mother was older stayed in school longer, did well on standardized tests and was more likely to attend college than their siblings who were born when their mother was younger! There was no explanation or hypothesis, but I'm thinking that the "younger child" dynamic where the youngest child is parents' last chance to invest in kids. plays a role here. See the article I wrote about having a favorite child.
Well-educated mothers use more extensive vocabularies when interacting with their young children which often translates into how well children communicate themselves which is associated with a stronger school performance. Having competent language skills is strongly tied with social competence, academic performance and workplace functioning.
When thinking about having children, consider the long-term effects on your life, your income and your children's futures. Maybe getting that next degree or extra training or waiting until you've moved up the ladder in your field is a good thing.
Just do the best you can, Claudia
Join me on Facebook at Dr. Claudia McCulloch