Potential risks associated with postponing childbirth

For a host of reasons, from getting married later to establishing a successful career and establishing financial security, more now than ever woman are trying to beat the biological clock.

At the beginning of the 1970s the average first-time mom was between 23  and 25. Today in many countries, predominantly — but not restricted to — European countries, first-time mothers are crossing the 30-year threshold.
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Generally, a woman is at her most fertile between the age of 25 and 35. According to economist Lester Thurow, however, these are also “the prime years for establishing a successful career” and an increasing number of career-minded women are opting opting to postpone childbirth.

Not only does one’s fertility decrease as one gets older –irrespective of how healthy you are — but  with an advanced maternal age the number of risks increases. At 25, for instance, a woman has about 1 chance in 1250 of having a baby with Down syndrome. At 35 this increases to a 1 in 400 chance, and at age 45 there is a 1 in 30 chance.

Other increased risks associated with having a baby after the age of 35 include having a greater likelihood of developing high blood pressure and diabetes. Women are also more likely to suffer a miscarriage or stillborn the older they are. Having a low weight baby or giving birth prematurely are also things to take into consideration.

Today, of course, there is technology available to help older women fall pregnant with assisted reproductive technology (ART), from IVF, GIFT, ZIFT, donor eggs and more. The debate that continues to rage is about what the cut-off age should be for assisted reproductive procedures.

What do you think – should there be a fixed cut-off date, or should the individual be allowed to make that decision?

Read here about Nicole Kidman, whose baby was carried by a surrogate mother.

Images: Wikimedia Commons and