Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ticking clock

When is the right age to have a baby?
A friend of mine turned 43 this week and her words to me that day have inspired this week’s column.
She said: “I don’t feel 43 because my kids make me feel young. I feel as young as any other mother who has young kids.”
I’m several years younger than her, but we both felt the same: kids do make you feel young.
But this made me wonder, what is the right age to have children?
Statistically for most women it is between the ages of 25 to 34.
Surveys around the world have shown that most women in their mid to late 20s feel like they are ready to take on a new role as they are more likely to have established themselves in their career and financially.
This completely rules out the ticking biological clock which is supposed to start ringing in the teenage years when we are the most fertile and less likely to miscarriage.
But the clock doesn’t stop ringing until we conceive, so for many women, hitting the snooze button until we are financially comfortable with a career is the preferred option.
What we do know about our bodies tells us a lot about our biological clocks.

Although teenagers are the most fertile age group and usually fitter and more able to give birth easily than older women, their emotional readiness is questionable.
Being able to focus on the baby’s needs may also be an issue, as well as the ability to provide financial and physical resources to care for a baby and growing child.
Women in their 20s are also very fertile but finding a willing partner to conceive a child may be the biggest hurdle.
By the time you reach your early 30s, you have the emotional readiness, the financial stability, but your risks increase, for example, there is a slightly higher increase of Downs Syndrome in children born to women in this age bracket.
Fertility begins to decline dramatically at 35, and the risks of miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, placental problems, gestational diabetes and chromosomal problems all increase.
On the plus side, many women in their 30s have the confidence to trade in their traditional career path for something new and more family friendly.
The work/life balance is of huge importance to women in their 30s which is why we have seen the rise of the mumpreneur.
Women in the 40s face an even greater uphill battle to conceive with statistics showing only four per cent of women in their 40s will fall pregnant per mentrual cycle.
After the age of 45, most doctors call it a miracle.
Older mums are less likely to have their own parents around for support, and many find parenting exhausting.
For some women who have come from high powered positions where they are used to being charge, having a baby can prove very difficult.
The positive factors are emotional, social and financial and many older mothers have a greater appreciation of motherhood.
In my mind, I don’t think there is a right age to have children.
We’re all different and we’re all motivated by different things.
From a career perspective, or a biological clock perspective, there are advantages and disadvantages to having children at every age.
It is up to each individual woman to decide what is right for them, remembering that sometimes life is what happens when we are busy making plans!
Like my friend at 43, whose children are aged seven and six, she has days where she feels like she’s in her 20s playing with the kids in the backyard pool.
No matter what age you are, all mothers embrace the joys and challenges of raising children with equal enthusiasm, and that is what matters the most.


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