Health and Lifestyle Factors in Your 20s, 30s and 40s
The best time in your life to start a family is a distinctly personal decision. Pregnancy can change everything, and a variety of factors such as your health habits, maturity, financial status and relationships can influence your experience. As more women choose to get pregnant later in life, physicians emphasize that a woman’s unique health, energy, personality and perspective on life will matter more than her age.
Discover what the experts have to say about health and lifestyle for pregnancy at different ages.
Biologically speaking, your early 20s is prime time for a pregnancy. Fertility is high, risk of complications is low, and excess youthful energy will do you well when chasing your toddler around.
Between the approximate ages of 20 and 25, miscarriage rates are at their lowest and women are often able to conceive quickly. A woman’s eggs are also less prone to chromosomal mistakes, significantly lowering the chances of Down’s syndrome for the newborn.
That said, young women are also more likely to smoke, delay prenatal care or gain less than the recommended weight, which may increase the risk of a low birth weight. Luckily, if you’re thinking of getting pregnant in your 20s, working closely with a prenatal care provider can address these concerns.
Energy is a huge asset for a young mom, but it means that energy is redirected from other pursuits. Pregnancy in your early 20s means giving up a certain degree of freedom you may be accustomed to. Late nights out dancing or spontaneous travel may be off the table, and that can be a hard adjustment for some women.
Your social life will adjust beyond your local haunts, too. While not all your friends may be in the same stage as you, you may discover a whole new set of relationships with new perspectives. Young moms find it easiest to make friends with other new moms, and the average age of new moms in the United States is 24. Women who choose to get pregnant in their early 20s also often enjoy the support – and free babysitting – of their parents.
Oftentimes, when women decide to start a family in their early 20s, it’s also early in their marriage. Young couples may be less prepared for the stress of a new baby, and experts advise anticipating that the baby will take attention away from your relationship.
Women who choose to get pregnant in their early 20s may also face more financial obstacles than their older peers. Salaries can be low, student loans loom large and it may be harder to make ends meet. When your career is in its infancy, it may be more difficult to secure benefits and time off, or return to your career track. And yet, women who decide to pursue their career after having children find that mindset reassuring and feel less like they’re missing out.
Many women consider this to be the ideal time to get pregnant – with a little more maturity and stability, your youth still lends itself to high energy.
Women who choose to get pregnant in their late 20s and early 30s often have fewer work, relationship and financial stresses that could otherwise make them biologically susceptible to disease. And, their energy and stamina remains fairly high.
However, natural fertility does begin to decline slightly at 30 when women begin to ovulate less frequently. Miscarriage rises, from 12 to 15 percent, after 30 and risk of Down’s syndrome increases slightly. That said, children also tend to score higher in testing, likely due to advanced parental education and resources.
Women in their late 20s and early 30s are also more likely to be established in their career. They are often at a stage they feel like they can take time off and pick up where they left off. Some women, however, do feel getting pregnant around 30 puts them at a crossroads of career and family. Experts recommend reassessing your goals six months after having your first child. In either case, you shouldn’t feel locked in to going back to work or being a stay-at-home mom.
“Cocooning” is a more attractive lifestyle shift to women choosing to get pregnant in their late 20s and early 30s. At this age, women know themselves well and are oftentimes ready for this change in lifestyle. They also benefit from improved body image and self-esteem, which may make them more comfortable with the body changes of pregnancy.
Your parents are likely still available to help in your late 20s and early 30s, sometimes even more so when they reach retirement. Marriages tend to be more prepared for a baby, and you’ll likely have the camaraderie of friends in the same place.
The late 30s is a transitional age to get pregnant. Your body begins to respond more notably to age, yet women at this stage do not quite share the same experiences as their 40+ counterparts.
For one thing, women 35 or older are more likely to have twins. They are also, for reasons that are not quite clear, more likely to have a Caesarian section. As you get closer to 40, your energy may begin to wane and you may find that you need to stop working earlier in your pregnancy to keep healthy. Fertility also begins to drop in your late 30s, with one in 5 women having trouble conceiving. However, many fertility problems can be treated and accurate prenatal screenings exist for the raised risk of chromosomal abnormalities.
By the late 30s, many women have increased incomes, less debt and even more stability. A baby is expensive, but much more manageable. When women start families in their late 30s, they’re less likely to feel like they’re missing out. An established career means more control with taking time off and if your friends chose to have children earlier, you have years of their real life experience to draw from.
Women who choose to start a family later in life in their 40s enjoy a confidence and security unique to their age.
The downside of getting pregnant later in life is mostly health concerns for mother and baby. One third of women over 40 struggle with infertility and they experience a higher risk of complications like gestational diabetes, urinary incontinence and uterine prolapse. Half of pregnancies later in life result in miscarriage and the risk of chromosomal abnormalities almost doubles from age 35 to 40.
Most women who get pregnant in their 40s are big believers in the “have-it-all” philosophy. Having done what they wanted to – whether climbing the corporate ladder or Mount Everest – they are comfortable, patient and less resentful than younger moms. Older and wiser, mature moms have a strong sense of self in what’s becoming an increasingly common path. While you may expect to see young moms at daycare, there will likely be a surprising number of other older women sharing your experience.