Many women wonder when is the right time for a child and whether age is an important factor in family planning. Find out more about this much-discussed topic here.
The right time for pregnancy depends on many factors
When should I get pregnant? Is there a right time for a child? And what role does my age play in the desire to have children? Millions of women are concerned with these questions every day. The right time depends on various factors. Each woman can only become pregnant on a maximum of six days a month. The probability is therefore quite low: it is around 20 to 30 percent per cycle. Another influential factor is actually age. From a purely biological point of view, a woman in the life phase between 20 and 29 years is the best age to become pregnant, because that is when she is most fertile. The risk of a malformation of the unborn child is also lowest now. Fertility drops from the age of 30 and has reached an average value of only 25 percent at 35.
From a purely biological point of view, a woman in the life phase between 20 and 29 years is at the best age to become pregnant.
Becoming pregnant – the age of expectant mothers is rising
Nevertheless, many women today consciously opt for a late pregnancy for a variety of reasons. This decision is often due to the fact that a suitable partner has not yet been found. More and more often, career has an influence on family planning, as does financial situation and personal maturity. According to the Gender Data Report, there is a correlation between school-leaving qualifications and maternity among German women: the higher the level of school-leaving qualifications, the greater the proportion of childless women aged between 35 and 39.
The birth trend in Germany
Having a child between the ages of 35 and 40 is no longer an exception – even though pregnancy is known to be a high-risk pregnancy. Prominent mothers are showing the way: Actress Julia Roberts gave birth to healthy twins at the age of 37. Madonna had her first child at the age of 38.
The following trends have been observed in Germany since 2012:
- In 2014, the birth rate in Germany was the highest in two and a half decades.
- For German women, the birth rate rose from 1.37 to 1.42 within one year, while that of foreign mothers in Germany rose from 1.80 to 1.86. The birth rate for German women in 2014 rose from 1.37 to 1.42. The birth rate for foreign mothers in Germany rose from 1.80 to 1.86 within one year.
- Statistically, the average age in 2014 was 30.9 years and has risen continuously by 0.1 per year since 2009.
The fact that women postpone their family planning further is also proven by a study conducted by the Fertility Disorders Research Association: While 20-year-olds stated in the survey that they wanted to become pregnant at the age of 26, the planned time for 21- to 30-year-olds was postponed by three years. 30-year-olds said they wanted to have a child at the age of 36. With the chronological shift in family planning, there is a growing demand for fertility treatments. Reproductive medicine today offers a variety of promising treatment methods. Many women ignore one decisive factor when planning their pregnancy: unfortunately, there is never a guarantee that they will become pregnant – regardless of their age.
Age and effects on pregnancy
When asked when it is possible to become pregnant, the answer is quite simple: as soon as a woman has had her first menstrual cycle, she is of childbearing age. If a woman is 35 years old, she is usually considered to be a late mother. The probability of a chromosomal defect in the unborn child increases from this age. For this reason, the statutory health insurance funds pay for examinations that go beyond the normal prenatal care. The amniocentesis or a chorionic villus biopsy provide information about a possible genetic defect in the child. One of the most common disorders is trisomy 21, also known as Down’s syndrome. Most late mother babies are born healthy despite the risks. There is no further evidence that children of mature mothers suffer more often from other health problems than offspring of younger mothers.
Pregnancy complications – a question of age?
Pregnancy complications affect all age groups. However, the risk of high blood pressure and gestational diabetes increases from 10.5 percent to 19 percent from the age of 35. These complaints are temporary and depend on the pregnancy. Monitoring by a gynaecologist is required. More mature women often give birth by caesarean section. They decide this either quite consciously or because of medical dysfunctions. These can be bleeding due to a deep placenta, complaints of the nervous system or benign growths in the uterus. These complications are also possible in younger pregnant women.
When is the best time to become pregnant?
Age is therefore a decisive factor. Once you have decided on a child, a healthy and conscious lifestyle is important regardless of this. A vitamin-rich and balanced diet promotes your health. Folic acid is a sensible food supplement because it reduces the risk of your baby developing a malformation. According to the German Society for Nutrition (DGE), women should take a preparation with synthetic folic acid in addition to a folate-rich diet in order to prevent neural tube defects. The preparation should be taken one month before attempting to have a child so that a sufficient folic acid level can build up in your blood before unprotected sexual intercourse. Zinc can also have a positive effect on fertility. The mineral promotes the development of a fertile egg cell. Very important: Avoid stress and stop smoking if necessary. The desire to have children should under no circumstances dominate your everyday life. Give yourself and your body the necessary time. A relaxed posture is essential for getting pregnant – no matter how young or old you are. In addition to a healthy and balanced diet, you should also eat a micronutrient complex during pregnancy and breastfeeding. It supplies you with increased requirements of vitamins and minerals.
Pregnant with 35, 40 or even 50: What are the limits?
For more and more couples, it is not unusual for a woman to become pregnant at 40 or even 45. Even 50 is no longer a medical problem. But for older women there is a lot to consider.
A desire to have children and becoming pregnant at 40 or 45 is nothing special for many women today. In fact, women at this age are far fitter physically than in previous generations. Nevertheless, Mother Nature cannot be outwitted: When women become pregnant at the age of 35, they are among the “late pregnant”, for whom pregnancy is associated with special risks.
When women over 35 become pregnant, they are among the “late pregnant”.
From the age of 30, the natural ageing of the body begins, which also does not stop at the reproductive organs. In addition, the number of eggs in the female body is limited: A young girl has about 400,000 eggs at the time of her first menstruation, but by mid-35 only 35,000 are left, and cycles without ovulation are more frequent. A pregnancy at 45 or 50 without additional fertility treatment is biologically only rarely possible – but can occur.
Women who become pregnant at the age of 40 risk complications throughout their pregnancy. In addition, the risk of chromosomal defects in the fetus increases because the aged eggs are no longer as “fresh” as in a woman of 20 or 25 years of age. For example, the risk of giving birth to a baby with Down’s syndrome is 1:1500 for 25-year-old mothers and 1:400 for 35-year-old mothers. Those who become pregnant at 40 already have a risk of 1:109, and those who become pregnant at 45 even 1:32. Furthermore, the risk of premature births and malformations increases.
Pregnant over 40: preventive health care
Health insurance companies speak of a high-risk pregnancy from the age of 35. From this point on, they cover the costs of additional preventive examinations, even if the mother is perfectly well. As a general rule, even if the term “high-risk pregnancy” sounds threatening, you should not worry if you are healthy. The risk is purely theoretical, but leads to the costs being covered by the health insurance for the following services:
- Additional preventive medical check-ups if necessary
- Additional ultrasound examinations
- Chorionic villus biopsy (examination for genetic peculiarities and metabolic diseases)
- If required, amniocentesis (amniocentesis examination)
- If necessary, neck wrinkle measurement (examination for genetic peculiarities as well as heart and skeletal defects)
- Cardiotocography (Recorder of labour pains, records heart sounds of the unborn child from the 25th week of pregnancy)
- The additional check-ups are not mandatory, but can be useful to check if mother and child are well.
Women who become pregnant at 40 have a much greater risk of pregnancy complications. These include, for example:
- High blood pressure (gestational hypertension)
- gestational diabetes
The more often you participate in screening, the more likely it is that potential complications will be detected and treated early. This is important to prevent serious complications such as pre-eclampsia. These include increased blood pressure, water retention and protein excretion in the urine, and if pre-eclampsia is suspected, close monitoring by a gynaecologist is required to ensure the health of the mother and baby.
If pregnancy diabetes occurs, in which the mother’s blood sugar level is elevated, this can have serious consequences for the child. Malformations, developmental disorders or even stillbirth can occur. The earlier pregnancy diabetes is diagnosed, the faster countermeasures can be taken to lower blood sugar levels. Gestational diabetes is promoted by a carbohydrate-rich, unhealthy diet.
Pregnancy at 50: Yes or no?
Pregnant women at the age of 40 are largely accepted by society today. Many women have no other choice if they want to study first and build a career or if they have to wait for the right partner. Becoming pregnant at the age of 50, on the other hand, is controversial. Surely there are also coincidences, for example when a woman stops using contraceptives at the beginning of menopause, believing that nothing can happen anymore.
However, there are also women who may want to have a child at the last minute. Maybe she is burdened by loneliness because the adult offspring has moved out, maybe she wants to take the last chance to have a child or wishes to have a family together with a new husband in her life.
For a healthy woman, pregnancy with good care is not a physical problem. The risk of complications, miscarriages and genetic defects increases for pregnant women over 45, but even at this age most women give birth to healthy children.
Whether a pregnancy at the age of 50 should still be aimed at is controversial. Many older women are more confident, financially better off and able to pay more attention to their children than young women. However, at the age of 60 they will usually find it more difficult to go through the storms of puberty again. You should also bear in mind that even if women reach the average age of 82 today, the child often loses its mother by the age of 30.
Pregnant at 40: the benefits
Despite all the prophecies of doom, every woman must decide for herself if and when she wants to have a child and becomes pregnant. Especially if you become pregnant naturally at 40 or even 45, you should congratulate yourself and look forward to the child, because Mother Nature gave you a late gift. Pay attention to your health, a balanced diet and plenty of exercise and take all preventive medical examinations. Then you have a good chance of a healthy pregnancy.
A late pregnancy offers some advantages: Older mothers are usually professionally established and can take a longer maternity break more easily. They are also more likely to have the financial means of good childcare if they want to return to work quickly. Single, well-off women who have never found a suitable partner are increasingly opting for a late pregnancy in order to fulfil their long-held desire to have children. Couples who decide to have a child “before it is too late” only after many years of togetherness can also rely on a more stable relationship structure and offer the child a harmonious family life as it grows up.
All this helps older mothers to approach their pregnancy more calmly and optimistically and to suffer less from stress. This in turn benefits the child in the womb.
Becoming pregnant at over 35 – five reasons to stay relaxed
From a purely biological point of view, fertility in women decreases from the age of 30 – but this does not mean that the eggs will exceed their shelf life by 35 years. Becoming pregnant is still possible from this point on and has its advantages. We will give you five good reasons to look forward optimistically to a pregnancy at the age of 30.
Stay confident: the chances of pregnancy are good
Numerous articles in magazines and periodicals report of a so-called “fertility cliff” in women aged 35 and over. In fact, these figures are based on a study carried out in the 17th century. Given the fact that not even antibiotics were invented at the time, these results are not particularly surprising. Today, the situation is completely different. A recent study gives hope: out of 770 women who tried to get pregnant, 82% of 35-39 year olds were in joyful anticipation within a year. These were the results of a study published in 2004 in the journal “Obstetrics & Gynaecology”. By comparison, the success rate among 27- to 34-year-olds was 86%. A study in Denmark came to comparable results: 78% of 35- to 40-year-olds became pregnant in the period of one year, and women between the ages of 20 and 34 expected a child with a rate of 84%.
Do not be unsettled: Miscarriage rates have little significance
Unfortunately, family planning is not only about getting pregnant, but also about staying pregnant – and giving birth to a healthy child. Statistically, the miscarriage rate increases with age, but the rates of miscarriages are not necessarily meaningful. The medical reports mostly refer to miscarriages of women with in vitro fertilisation (IVF), i.e. artificial insemination. In other words, the abortion rates refer to women with a history of miscarriage, for whom the probability of miscarriage is higher anyway – regardless of their age.
Don’t believe in numbers: Statistics do not tell your story
For a rough assessment of the situation, statistics are usually a good orientation, but the numbers say nothing about your personal history. If you are fit and healthy, you have a good chance of having a child up to the age of 40 and even beyond. In addition, there are more modern techniques for human reproduction today than ever before. Even if you don’t need support, it’s reassuring to know she would be there.
Consider the whole thing: your age is just one of many factors
Your age has an influence on your fearfulness – that remains undisputed. However, there are other factors as well: a normal BMI (between 18.5 and 24.5), for example, has an advantageous effect on fertility. Sufficient exercise, a healthy and balanced diet and the avoidance of alcohol and tobacco also increase your chances of pregnancy.
Be optimistic: there are many advantages to being an older mother
Having a child in the late 30s and thus belonging to the older mothers also has advantages. You now have more life experience and are likely to be financially better off than in the 20s of your life. Your lifestyle is probably healthier today, so you can be a good role model for your child.
You see: All in all, there are many reasons for a pregnancy over 35.