If you thought choosing the save the date for your wedding was a tough decision, just wait until you come face to face with the choice of if or when to have a baby.
Deciding to try to conceive a child is one of the biggest, scariest and most exciting decisions you will make, and for many women it’s a decision that’s being pushed back farther and farther. Between relationship issues, financial worries, career changes, fitness goals, social calendars and so many other factors, more women are putting off having children in their 20s and instead opting to embark on parenthood later on in life.
While there’s no right or wrong answer to the best time to start your own family, there are several things to consider in the process. We spoke with Nurse Practitioner and award-winning Women's Health Expert, Barb Dehn of Nurse Barb's Daily Dose. She is giving us the facts when it comes to having kids in your 30s and beyond.
Why women are waiting
Nurse Barb says that women who wait to have kids until their 30s are more likely to be where they want to be, or at least on the path toward their career and educational goals. “Many women have learned more effective ways to communicate with their partners and this might help with relationship stresses. Many women in their 30s have developed and seen the benefits of healthy habits and routines.” Also, she says, women in their 30s tend to have heard more about pre-conception care and the importance of taking prenatal vitamins before trying to get pregnant.
However, while it might seem appealing to focus on your relationship and your career for an extended amount of time, Dehn says conceiving past the age of 35 isn’t as easy as it is in your 20s — plus, the list of physical risks might start adding up.
The Physical Risks
Nurse Barb stresses that it’s important to put the risks you may have read about in the past in to context. “Yes, the risks of complications such as high blood pressure and diabetes are increased in women over 35. However, less than 10 percent of women have these medical issues, which means that most women are healthy.” And when it comes to miscarriage, she says all women at all ages have about a one in five risk of loss, but as women reach their late 30s and up to 40, the risk of miscarriage can be one in three or higher.
“No matter what age you are, reducing risks means taking good care of yourself, getting plenty of exercise, eating healthy nutritious food and making sure you’re taking a quality parental vitamin with a healthy dose of vitamin D3, iron and folic acid,” she explains.
What you need to know before deciding to have a baby
Having children is very personal decision, and many factors come in to play from your financial and educational goals to the family size you’ve always envisioned. No matter what your circumstances are, there are some things Nurse Barb says all women need to consider. Here she gives us the three factors she recommends to women considering to have children:
Your health, which includes nutrition, exercise, any medical issues you might have, and reducing risks meaning stopping smoking and the excess use of alcohol. You want to be in the best shape possible in all aspects of life, so you can be ready for your little one.
Your own ideas about how you envision your pregnancy and becoming a mom. So often we focus on labor and delivery and may forget about the pregnancy and then what motherhood will be like. I ask my patients to consider these aspects and even write letters to their future self and their babies about their hopes and dreams.
Your finances, including what type of insurance you have, where you want to deliver, finding out if it’s covered and how you’ll manage after the baby arrives.
The crazy myths
“I’ve heard women say that because they are breastfeeding they can’t get pregnant,” Nurse Barb adds. “It’s an easy assumption to make because while breastfeeding, a woman may not have her period and assume that she can’t get pregnant. However, just because there’s no period doesn’t mean you’re not fertile!”
Additionally, she says so many women believe taking a birth control pill immediately makes them unable to conceive. “The fact of the matter is that until a woman is comfortable with her routine and actually takes the pill every day, I recommend using a back up method like condoms. In general, if a woman starts the birth control pill at the beginning of her cycle, it’s effective in preventing pregnancy at two weeks. If a woman has breakthrough bleeding or spotting or forgets to take her pills every day, she does run the risk of getting pregnant.”
What to do if you can’t get pregnant
If you decided to hold off in your 20s and are now in your 30s wishing to get pregnant, Nurse Barb says it might take a little more time than you realize. “When a woman reaches the magic age of 35 years, her rate of fertility starts to decline,” she says. “When we start trying to conceive, it’s normal and natural to get discouraged if it takes three to six months. I would recommend that you talk to your health care provider about what you need prior to trying to get pregnant. If you’re over 35 and you’ve been trying on your own for more than 6 months, do make an appointment with fertility evaluation.”