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What Is Now The Ideal Age Range For A Woman To Become Pregnant & Give Birth?
The Times They Are A Changing
As the population grows older, more people are living for longer, and those wishing to buy houses are finding that it takes longer to be able to put together enough of a deposit, more people are going into higher, university level, education than ever before and there is more focus on building a career, particularly amongst women who, not that many years ago, would have been expected to stay at home and raise a family.
All of this, coupled with significant medical advances, has meant that, not only are people living longer, they are healthier and fitter. Whereas in times gone by, there was pressure for a woman to have children early in life, possibly in her late teens or early twenties, because those were the years during which it was the safest to do so, when there was much less of a danger of there being complications during the pregnancy or birth.
We now live in a time when a lot of women do decide to have children much later, in their 30s and even into their 40s. Increasingly we hear of later pregnancies, but after the age of 50 it does become less likely as the menopause sets in to do its work. Nonetheless, many women do have successful and very healthy pregnancies in their 30s and 40s but there fears that there may be risks that go unheeded and it that which we examine in this article.
A recent report published by RCOG, (Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists) came to the considered conclusion that the optimum age for conceiving and giving birth to a child is somewhere between twenty and thirty five years of age and that there was a higher risk of miscarrying after thirty five.
Infertility was reported to be gradually higher as women exceed thirty five years old so delaying the process of starting a family could mean that it was more and more difficult to conceive beyond that age. The report even went as far as suggesting that to exceed the optimal window for conceiving was in fact going against nature and fraught with problems.
How does the ageing process affect the likelihood and safety of conceiving a child?
Although it is acknowledged that the age range during which women conceive is gradually rising, there are medical facts which actually do not change. In particular, as a woman grows older, the process by which she produces egg cells in her ovary gradually deteriorates. Both the number of egg cells produced and the quality thereof become lower thereby leading to possible problems in conceiving.
It is difficult to diagnose but nonetheless a fact, that a significant proportion of women, estimated to be around ten per cent, are affected by an early ageing of the ovary and its processes. It is well known that when such problems occur, and women who ought to be able to conceive, find that they cannot, then there can be a lot of distress and strain placed upon the woman and the relationship with her partner.
Whilst no one argues that women should not be free to make life and career choices that suit them, taking family, financial, career and medical circumstances into consideration, the fact remains that the process of ageing in the female reproductive system does mean that pregnancy becomes less likely and more problematical as time moves on.
So, although the RCOG report does not in itself mean that women in general should be overly concerned it raise issues that they should most definitely be aware of and take into account when planning a family and a career.
Just What Are The Likely Medical Problems?
The problems being referred to are not newly recognised and have been in the minds of health professionals for many years. despite this, however, and because many of the factors that govern a woman’s decision as to when to start a family cannot rally be planned that accurately in advance, they are often given less consideration than perhaps they should be.
The underlying message is that women should take account of those findings and circumstances that they do have some control over. The most important of these is to regularly have health check-ups and, in particular, to be aware of the various screening options that are available, for example, in regard to identifying possible risks of genetic disorders being present.
Practical Steps That Can Be Taken
Many factors affecting the safety and quality of future child bearing plans can be positively affected by early behaviours. Regular checking of blood pressure, testing for high blood sugar levels, (diabetes) and obesity are all things that can easily be done and which all contribute to making childbirth more likely to be happy and healthy for all concerned.
Women are also advised to take folic acid and various vitamin supplements at and around the period during which conception is planned to take place.
A woman's health should be at optimum levels just prior to, and during, pregnancy. The golden rules here are well known but to reiterate, keep weight to the correct level for the body height, eat a healthy and well-balanced diet, engage in regular exercise and avoid excess alcohol. It goes without saying that smoking is most definitely off the agenda.
It is emphasised that women should not be over concerned by this report but that they should take heed of the recommendations as summarised above. A link to more details is given below.
Further Information & Support
- Pregnancy - Over 35 - Babiesbase Forum
Pregnancy - Over 35: Over 35 and pregnant? Join this forum to meet and chat with other mature mothers.
- Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
- Doctors have warned women that concieving later in life carries significant health risks