You have likely seen public health ads aimed at decreasing teen pregnancy. But with more women than ever giving birth over the age of 35, researchers are calling on public health agencies to tailor messages about preconception planning and contraception for women in this age group, according a review in The Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, a UK health journal.
According to the January 27, 2011, report, the mean age of childbearing (in the UK) has risen over the last 40 years from 23 years in 1968 to age 29.3 in 2008. Similar increases have been noted in US birth statistics. Researchers believe public health agencies need to stress the message that older women are at greater risk of miscarriage and other pregnancy complications—and take longer to become pregnant in the first place. At the age of 25, researchers note, just 5 percent of women take longer than a year to conceive, but this rises to 30 percent in women aged 35.
The review recommends that simple messages about contraception, normal cycles, and age-related risks should be reinforced through schools, family planning, and sexual health clinics and in the media. "Clear facts on fertility need to be made available to women of all ages to remind them that the most secure age for childbearing remains 20 to 35," says David Utting, co-author of the review.
Don't think men get off the hook in this report. Researchers also highlight studies that show men are affected by reproductive aging too, a fact that often escapes media attention. In one study on the link between male age and the time to pregnancy, researchers note that in men under the age of 25 the average length of time it took for their partners to get pregnant was 4.6 months. In men over 40, this time increased to nearly two years.