In the last decade, we have seen a rise in women who give birth to children in their 40s and 50s. In the natural timeline, a woman starts to lose her fertility and head toward menopause by the time she has reached her early 40s. Depending on genetics, the age of menopause differs from woman to woman, but the average age of menopause all over the world is 51. Around 30 years ago, women over the age of 40 were considered “too old” to be first-time mothers, but today, it has become almost commonplace. What does this mean for the parents and their child?
An older mother is defined as someone who conceives and has her first child after the age of 35. However, looking at the statistics today, a large number of women are having children past the age of 35, probably more than any other time in history. For most women, the chances of having pregnancy complications are low until the age of 40. This has quite a lot to do with the mother’s health too; women in their 40s have a higher risk, or may have already developed conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure that can affect the child in the womb. Moreover, older women have a one-in-two chance of having a miscarriage, especially if they are over 45 years of age. Other complications that are more likely are ectopic pregnancy, pre-eclampsia, placental abruption and gestational diabetes, and the chances increase as women get older. Finally, older mothers also carry a higher risk of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities like Down’s Syndrome and Edward’s Syndrome.
However, just because there are chances of these complications does not mean that every older mother has a risk. For most part, older mothers have a normal and healthy pregnancy just like younger mothers, and there is almost no difference between the two. It does mean, however, that older mothers have to take more care of themselves during their pregnancy, and possibly take up more medical tests to continuously evaluate their own health as well as their baby’s.
Since men don’t have a menopause, they can continue to father children late into their old age. The world’s oldest dad is currently 96 years old, and was able to father two children in his 90s. However, there might be a few risks for older fathers too. Men continue to produce sperm all their lives, but once they reach the age of 30, some of the DNA in the sperm can have a mutation. As the man gets older, the number of these mutations increase, and can possibly affect the baby during conception. In the past, many studies have linked the development of autism to these mutated sperm cells, but conclusive evidence for this theory is still missing. Older fathers have also been linked to their children having a higher chance of developing schizophrenia, but the rate is still quite small at 1%. There is also no concrete evidence linking a higher chance of mental illness with older fathers, especially because mental illness is quite strongly dependent on environmental factors that parents cannot control. There has been no conclusive risk for older fathers in scientific studies, but both older parents may also face different kinds of problems.
A lot of older parents have reported in news articles that their decision to have a child later in life is not always supported. There is always a risk that older parents might not be able to take care of the children they have brought into the world; they are definitely more prone to illnesses and complications than younger parents, and it is also possible that they might not live long enough to see their children reach milestones later in their life. Though older parents have similar thoughts about their role in their child’s life, most people have thought out the process carefully and considered all the risks attached to being older parents. After all, no solid future is guaranteed for anyone, and older parents believe that speculative questioning should not stop them from becoming good parents to their children.
One great advantage of being an older parent is that most people have settled down in their life, and know that this is the right decision for them. Not only are they more financially stable than younger parents, but are also socially and emotionally more mature to handle children. A lot of women might have wanted to pursue something other than motherhood when they were younger, or a lot of men might not have been emotionally ready to have a child. So, when the decision to have the child does come up, it is not taken lightly, and brings about very devoted and confident parents. Older people also have more experience about the world and themselves, and can become better parents to their children by capitalizing on it.