While it is ideal for most people to carefully plan out their pregnancies to line up with a particular time of year, after a promotion, or when they feel completely ready to become a parent, that isn’t always reality. In fact, nearly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, meaning they were mistimed (happened earlier than intended) or occurred when no (or no more) children were expected.
Surprise pregnancies aside, another trend is also clear: more and more women are choosing their thirties to get pregnant, with fewer venturing into motherhood in their twenties. Recent information from the Center for Disease Control confirms that the birth rate between women aged 30 to 34 and 35 to 39 has increased over the past few years. This trend brings women to parenthood quite a bit older than previous generations, meaning they will face different challenges in their pregnancy and in parenthood in general than their parents or grandparents did.
For the first time in over 30 years women aged 25 to 29 are no longer in the top birth rate position, as now it’s women a little bit older. Here are 20 reasons why pregnancy is different at 31 than at other times in a person’s life.
20 Undue Parental Pressure
As times have changed and people are waiting longer to have kids thanks to a focus on education, career, and finding the right person to raise kids with, more of us are conceiving in our 30’s. But that doesn’t mean that friends, family, and other well-wishers aren’t going to start putting pressure on to bring a baby around, particularly when it means becoming a grandparent.
One mom told Women’s Health Magazine, "My mother was delighted when I finally announced I was pregnant. She thought I was older than dirt. My maiden name is Fitzpatrick. I had the luck of the Irish: decided to try and got pregnant immediately. [During pregnancy], I had thinning hair, ridiculously large breasts and ‘jumpy leg’, which drove me crazy while commuting.”
19 Decline In Fertility At Age 32
Being thirty-one years old is like being at the tipping point of a new world of fertility. The slight decline in fertility for women usually begins at around age 32, with a much more prominent decline after they reach their mid to late thirties. Women are generally most fertile when they are in their 20’s, but today many women don’t even begin to think about trying to get pregnant until after they’ve celebrated their 30th birthday.
While 32 isn’t the end of fertility, those interested in conceiving down the road should keep in mind how fertility will lessen each year that passes, with around one-third of women 35 or older having to seek the aid of a fertility specialist.
18 Make Room For Multiples
Have you noticed increasing PMS symptoms in your thirties, especially well beyond your twenties? This is possible because hormonal fluctuations increase as you age, and in addition to the bloating, cramps, and other unpleasant side-effects, it also means you have a greater chance of having twins.
While these odds slightly increase in your thirties, it becomes more of a factor as you reach your mid-thirties. Another cause for the increase of multiples in women in their thirties and beyond is the increased use of hormone therapy and fertility treatments.
17 You Don’t Need To Rush Just Yet
While popular culture and family may constantly remind you that your biological clock is ticking, turning 30, or 31, or 32 isn’t a cause for concern or for immediately throwing caution to the wind in hope of having a baby.
Dr. Mary Jane Minken, an ob-gyn clinical professor from Yale University says,"Once you hit your 30s, particularly 35 and beyond, we do start seeing a diminution in fertility, but that's not an absolute—and if you are still quite busy with establishing a career, or haven't found the perfect partner, you shouldn't be pushed into getting pregnant just to have a child."
16 Confidence In Timing
When you are the first person to have children in your social circle, particularly when your friends are in their 20’s at school and out partying or rapidly climbing the corporate ladder, it can be easy for moms to feel a sense of isolation or like they are missing out.
Mom Meghan says of her choice to conceive at 32, "There's no doubt that even in the best pregnancies and easiest of babies, you still need to cut back with your work, even temporarily, but I put about four solid years into building a name for myself, as well as a solid base of loyal clients, which allowed me to take that temporary step back when needed.”
15 Slow Start for Some
When we start trying to conceive at an older age, it means that there is slightly less time to ‘let nature take its course’. People in their thirties will often seek medical counsel after six months to a year of trying to conceive without success.
One mom told Women’s Health Magazine, "It took me exactly two years from when I started trying to get pregnant. It became a difficult and heartbreaking process at times. Month after month of realizing I wasn’t pregnant really took a toll on me. I started to feel like something was wrong with me, I started to avoid friends and family that I knew would ask me about when I was going to have a baby. “
14 Two Year Age Gap May Not Work
In most cases, it is said that it takes around two years for the body to recover from pregnancy, which is why many people wait a while before moving on to having their next.
In fact, the World Health Organization recommends that moms consider trying an 18-24-month time gap between pregnancies, but this restriction is not practical for women who are well into their thirties, especially those who want a larger family.
The good news is that recent research published by the University of British Columbia says that the optimal time for a woman to get pregnant is between 12 and 18 months after their previous pregnancy.
13 Chances Of A Loss
Any pregnancy holds the risk of a loss, but this risk increases with mom’s age. Since many miscarriages can be caused by chromosomal abnormalities, and the risk of such abnormalities increases with age, specifically after age 35, the older that mom is when she conceives the greater the risk.
There is also an increase in complications, such as high blood pressure, thyroid disease, or gestational diabetes as you age. Mom can help mitigate these risks by working with her healthcare professional to ensure peak health before and during pregnancy.
12 An Increased Physical Toll
Anyone who has been pregnant knows just how challenging pregnancy can be on the body, particularly in the last trimester. Everything from sciatica to morning sickness, to plain old exhaustion, adds up.
The older you get, the more challenging anything is for your body, pregnancy included. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle of eating healthy food and maintaining levels of physical fitness and activity during pregnancy, the better you’ll feel during. By minimizing some of the physical symptoms associated with pregnancy, the quicker you’ll recover.
11 When It’s Time to Start Tracking
As we age, timing a pregnancy just right becomes more of an issue. Even women with menstrual cycles they could set a watch to can benefit from proper tracking of ovulation to ensure a faster route to pregnancy.
Mom Zlata, who had her child at 32, says, "It took quite a while to get pregnant when we were trying to just ‘let it happen.’ Once I started with ovulation tests, I learned that I ovulate on different days than I thought I ovulated on. That was a pretty big deal. From there, it took two months before I got pregnant. Looking back at photos, my face looked really swollen. I actually kept my weight well and didn't gain too much, but you can just tell my face looked different and fuller.”
10 Better Support Network
Since so many women are having their families in their thirties (and beyond), you aren’t going to be without the support of your peers- and that’s a big deal. The support of friends who have already had children can help talk you through difficult moments in pregnancy, and while raising children.
They can also provide you baby gear they’re no longer using and hand-me-down clothes for your little one. Most women in their thirties have parents who are already retired, with many happy to help babysit little ones and still being well enough physically to do so.
9 A Focus On Career
Being in your thirties means you’ve had more time to mature, are both in a different headspace now, and have built a more sustainable, professional career. Monica is a mom who had her children at 35 and 37 years old, and knows it was the best choice for her.
Monica says, “Because of where I was in my career when I had my son, I had the experience and know-how to start my own consulting business so I could be my own boss and design my own hours, which I wouldn't have been able to do a few years earlier."
8 Additional Risks As Your 30’s Go On
There are risks associated with any pregnancy, whether you’re 22 years old or 42 years old. However, some specific risk factors begin to increase significantly for moms in their 30’s.
As moms get further into their 30’s, there are increased risks including the likelihood of a Caesarean birth, premature labour, preterm birth, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and low birth weight. While these seem scary, just because there is an increased risk it doesn’t mean that moms in their thirties or even forties can’t go on to have very healthy, complication-free pregnancies.
7 The Age of Self-Awareness
The thirties bring self-confidence, self-awareness, and stability that many women in their twenties haven’t developed yet. Psychotherapist Leah Seidler says that although everyone is unique, women in their thirties generally know themselves better than their younger counterparts and are also less likely to be set in their ways and routines as those in their forties.
This provides them with a sweet spot in terms of resilience and stamina throughout their pregnancy and journey as moms. Moms in their forties who have accelerated in their careers may find it more difficult to interrupt their higher-level career, compared to their thirty-something subordinates.
6 The Mom Age Gap
Moms who are surrounded by other moms significantly younger than them in their child’s classes or prenatal classes may need to make an extra effort to make mom friends in their own age group, which can be a challenge all on its own.
Mom Monica says, "I would say the one downside is that I seem to have several years on all the moms around me, which makes me feel somewhat disconnected. I'd still be invited to the moms' night out kind of things, but there was always something in our conversations that underscored the age gap."
But don't let this worry you- just look at it as a chance to make new friends and meet new people!
5 Educated Endurance
Some moms are in the unique position to have experienced pregnancy in motherhood in their twenties, thirties, and forties. Mom Nicole Rogers is one of these people and said that, if she had to select one decade to have her children, she would select her thirties.
Nicole says, "Your career is launched, you still look and feel great, and you have the energy to keep up with your kids," she explains. "You're more relaxed about being a parent than you were in your 20s, so you can have more fun, and you aren't as tired as you are in your 40s. You think you can do it all, and in your 30s, you almost can."
4 Added Risk
No pregnancy comes without a chance of a complication, but moms over thirty can expect their doctors to provide care related to increased risks for particular prenatal conditions.
For example, incidents of complications, such as hypertension and gestational diabetes, are at eight to 12 percent for women who are over 30 years old, compared to younger moms who see a risk of five percent of developing these conditions.
Moms at any age should be monitoring their salt and sugar levels throughout pregnancy to lessen the risks of developing these complications.
3 A More Laboured Labour
Many people talk about what good shape they were in when they were in their twenties, and some of that endurance and stamina can also be applied to the labour and delivery room. In your thirties, labour has higher risks of developing complications, compared to that of the mom in her twenties pushing in the bed beside you.
The good news is that if mom is having her second child in her thirties her risks remain less than a mom over 40 of going into preterm labour. Another note is that several chronic health problems develop for people in their thirties, and these will result in a more complicated pregnancy and birth.
2 Genetic Testing
A number on your birth certificate isn’t a big deal to doctors- that is unless your age is over 35, as that’s when they’ll need to monitor you for Down’s syndrome and other possible conditions.
Moms aged 30 to 34 have a 1 in 1200 chance of having a baby with Down’s Syndrome, whereas moms aged 35 to 39 see these chances increase to one in every 700 pregnancies.
All women, no matter their age, are offered screening tests for genetic conditions, but those in their later thirties may be recommended to take extra diagnostic tests in their pregnancies.
1 The Ability to Plan For the Future
If you’ve had your thirtieth birthday and are pretty sure you want kids down the road, but don’t know when you’ll be ready, haven’t met your partner yet, or think you may want to go it on your own after you build on your savings, you may want to consider freezing your eggs.
While pregnancy in your later thirties and forties have increased risks associated, by freezing your eggs now you increase your odds of getting pregnant quickly as you age thanks to science and modern fertility technology. If you have this option available to you, can afford it, and think it's right for you, then was suggest looking into it.