"I was 19, 29, and 32 when I had my sons," says Darlene Demell, of Pembroke, Ontario. "I wouldn't change anything about any of my pregnancies. I don't think it had any effect on my attitude or my health—I guess it was the perfect time for me."
The "ideal age," physically, for a woman to have a baby is under the age of 30. "Fertility peaks from age 20 to 25 and begins to decrease at age 30," says Dr. Patricia Tiernan, MD, OB-GYN, from Bourbonnais, Illinois. Generally women this age are healthy, without chronic medical conditions, and have lots of energy.
Reasons for Waiting
"I sometimes wish I had started earlier, but we waited because we wanted to do things in the 'right' order: get married, buy a house, get a dog, then try to get pregnant," says Stacey MacDonald, of East Haddam, Connecticut. At 28, she became a first-time mom, and now at age 32 feels like she "only has a couple of years left to have another baby."
Emotionally, many women in their twenties say they are not ready for the responsibility, commitment, and change of lifestyle that a baby brings. This reason, along with career objectives, financial stability, and personal goals, among others, may be why the average American woman's age for having a baby has been steadily rising since 1970, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). First births among women ages 30 to 39 have doubled in the past 15 years, and those for women 40 and older have increased 50 percent.
"When I started practice 25 years ago, we considered a woman who was having her first baby and was older than 35 years of age to be an 'elderly primigravida.' Nowadays, women are waiting to start a family," says Dr. Lawrence Jay Rappaport, MD, an OB-GYN specialist. "There is no problem at all in carrying a pregnancy to term at any age prior to menopause."
Healthy Women, Healthy Babies
"Several medical studies have shown that healthy pregnant women between the ages of 34 and 44 have almost the same odds as 25-year-old women for bearing healthy babies," writes Carol Winkelman, author of The Complete Guide to Pregnancy After 30. "Thus, when it comes to safety for the baby, healthy older women do almost as well as younger women."