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Pros and cons of having a baby at 40

In America it is very common to have children relatively early and I suspect this is even truer in the Southern states where I live. It wasn’t uncommon for some of my high school friends to have children right after they graduated and some friends became pregnant even before finishing school. Now however many women are waiting longer and longer to have children. To my mind this is a good thing as child-rearing requires an insane amount of maturity. But for those who want to start or add to their family at 40, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Keeping physically fit is extra important.

For those of you who had children when you were in your twenties or early thirties you may have taken it for granted how much energy it takes to raise a young child simply because you had ample stores of energy yourself back then.  If you are planning on having a child in your forties be sure that you are physically fit and energetic enough to spend all those sleepless nights awake caring for little Junior.

Understand the risks of late pregnancy.

If you are intent on having a child after 40, listening to the risks of late pregnancy can be a little bit of a downer. While the 40 plus mothering demographic is the most rapidly growing child-bearing group, it is important to know that your child has higher risks for certain diseases and complications and this doesn’t just include birth-related risks like higher rates of miscarriage. Children of older mothers have much higher risk of diabetes and if the father of the child is over 40 at conception the child is at a much higher risk of complications.

Sleeping Baby

Ask other siblings how they may feel about having a new sibling, especially if they are older.

Having a child is always a decision that involves many people but when you are younger it is a decision that should be thought out carefully by two people—yourself and your partner. When you have other children, you have to consider how older siblings may feel about it, as well as grandparents, and more.

Understand the social anxieties that you and your child may experience.

Although I absolutely love my parents and am grateful that they waited till they were financially and emotionally stable to have children, I can speak from first-hand experience that having parents who are much older than you can present moments of awkwardness. Growing up, my friends would always mistake my folks for my grandparents and, especially when younger, it was disappointing that my parents couldn’t practice sports with me. Another anxiety that many children of older parents have is that they will pass away prematurely.

Overall, I am a big advocate of waiting until you are older to have children. Still, biologically the best child-bearing years are in one’s twenties and early thirties. While modern science is making it easier to have healthy children later, it’s worth considering carefully your decision from all angles.

Here are some of the comments we had from social media

What Carla said about having a baby at 40…

“As an older mom, I think we spend time discussing issues of fertility and caring for babies / toddlers, and forget that we’ll be in our 50s and potentially 60s with teenagers.

That’s a whole other thing – in terms of parental health, energy, and financial resources – not to mention what that means for the children involved.

It may be great that we can extend our period of fertility – through natural means and intervention – but we really need to give serious thought to what it means as a parent over the long haul. And, much as I hate to mention it, we never know if we’ll find ourselves parenting older – solo”

Lisa F said…

As the children of mature parents, my brother and I have always thought it was a foregone conclusion that we’d lose our parents while we were relatively young. Well, guess what? We’re middle aged now and our folks are still going strong in their early 80s–while some of our friends’ parents who are a full decade younger are suffering serious health problems.

We’re basically very lucky, but I do question the wisdom of foregoing a family because of the potential of problems 25 or 30 years down the line. So often, the things we worry about never actually happen.

Sarah E said…

I am a month away from my 43rd birthday and have an 8 year old son and a 1 year old daughter. While I understand the dangers of being pregnant and “older,” I think that they are blown way out of proportion. For example, the risk of Downs Syndrome doubles (or is it triples?) for someone my age. But the risk for a younger person is like .05%. So double that and it is 1%. I have no problem with those odds. I refused the test for Downs, but the level 2 ultrasound I had put my risk at less than .05%.

As for not having enough energy to keep up with a youngster or two, that depends on the individual. I have more energy than I did than in my 20’s, maybe because I take better care of myself. I play sports with my son, bike ride, etc. My husband also is in good shape.

People usually mistake my husband and I for much younger (10 years usually) than we are. And being around other (younger) parents in school situations makes us feel young. And we are by no means the oldest parents of a 3rd grader at school.

 I say don’t get hung up on age. It’s only a number, and anyway youthfulness is a state of mind. I consider myself at 43 still young. Most women — of all ages — get pregnant and have perfectly healthy kids. In fact, I’d have one more but I can’t afford it, lol.

Becky S said…

Older siblings should have no say in this. Often, children change their minds and are not so grossed out about parents becoming parents again. That’s one of the problems with young people today, they think they should have equal say as parents and want to rule the roost about all sorts of things like food eaten, tv time, etc. Parents should be adults and not give so much authority to children who will be spoiled in early adulthood, thinking they should have a say about too many issues.

Joanne W said…

I think the fertility issue is very real for those who experience it. I’m sure in terms of actual percentages (of who experiences infertility) it’s small. I was 35 when I started trying and it took 4years and medical intervention. Other than 1 friend, none of my other 40 plus year old friends had issues. So yes it’s probably a small percentage but my friend and I both wished we had tried much sooner. The risks of Downs and other illnesses is also not to be taken lightly.

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