There is good news coming out of Sweden for women who have babies later in life: According to a new study in the Population and Development Review, researchers found that children born to older women tend to be healthier, taller, and better educated.
This is pretty encouraging for women who delay having children — especially since the previous buzz was that waiting longer had worse outcomes. You’ve probably heard that pregnancy becomes more complicated after 35 (when you suddenly become “high risk,” a label that just generally stinks). Women are more prone to have trouble getting pregnant as they get older, and their eggs are more likely to have genetic mutations, making birth defects more common.
Recent reports don’t let dads off the hook either: Older dads can pass on DNA with chromosomal defects as well, and there is a correlation between advanced paternal age, and increased likelihood of mental illness. That lessens the blow for us ladies, I suppose, but taken together, all of it makes the many women who are thinking about having kids past 35 just a wee bit anxious.
The fact is, more women than ever are waiting to have kids until later in life — it’s almost laughable that 35 is considered “advanced maternal age.” After 35 is when many of us find that our careers are just taking off, and that we’ve finally found a partner who’s grown-up enough and ready for parenthood, too.
The reports out of Sweden don’t dismiss the biological concerns around delayed childbearing, but the researchers surmise that the good outweighs the bad here.
Anyone who has lived past the “elderly” age of 35 will tell you how much smarter, wiser, and more badass you become as you get older. I venture to guess that may even be where the “better educated” piece of the research comes from. Smart women make smart babies. And while that’s absolutely not to say that younger women aren’t smart, but life experience is a big factor here, and you just don’t have that yet when you’re young.
As a mom of two who is now pushing 40, I can say unequivocally that I become a better parent with each passing year. I had my first child in my late 20s, but I didn’t have my second child until I was almost 35 — and sometimes I do think he’s getting a better deal than my first child.
Over the years, both my husband and I have softened around the edges, and are just generally more developed and efficient human beings. When our first son was a baby, we were full of love and good intentions, but we were just getting our footing in terms of career and finances. We struggled to figure out how to make a solid family life work. We’ve both wondered if waiting a few years would have made those transitions smoother.
Of course, I don’t have any regrets about starting parenthood when I did. I had an itch to have a baby in my late 20s, and I had a good husband with whom to procreate. But it was no mistake that we waited almost six years to have another child. Our first child took us by storm, and we needed those intervening years to get ourselves together. Basically, we needed to age a bit more (and believe me: my first child did a great job at increasing my gray hairs).
I think the most important thing about the decision to have kids is that it should be entirely up to you, and not dictated by what others say. You know your life, and you get to decide when the best time is. If nothing else, I hope this study gives mothers who want to wait a little longer something less to worry about — and a whole lot more hope and encouragement.More On