Pregnancy- Does the mother's age matter?
Does it make any difference how old you are when having children? Is it better to be old or young?
The new trend- older mothers
More and more women decide to wait a bit before having children. It is not like in the older days, when the first child was expected to arrive a year after the wedding. These days, many choose to make a career first, travel a bit, or do other things that are difficult when having small children.
When talking about pregnancy, a woman is considered old when over 35. This is because the risk for certain complications increase at that age. Often an amniocentesis is recommended, to make sure there is nothing wrong with the baby. It is also quite common with fertility treatment for women over thirty, as the possibility of conception decreases as the woman grows older. (The picture shows an over 40-pregnancy)
Pregnancy after 30
Is that really old?
There are benefits of having children at a more mature age. That feeling of missing out on life and youth because of being tied to the home is not there. Often, women who have children at this age do so out of choice. They really want to have a child, and prepare accordingly. A lot make sure they are fit and sound before even trying to conceive, which is very important. Usually, these women also have a stable economy, alleviating a lot of stress.
The problem is that as a woman grows older, the possible complications during a pregnancy increase. Gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, premature birth- more common in older mothers. Studies also show that the risk of miscarriage is 12% to 15% for women in their 20s and rises to about 25% for women at age 40. This is probably partly due to the fact that chromosomal abnormalities are more common with increased age of the mother.
There is often a higher occurence of prenatal ultrasounds, induced labor, and c-sections. But it is difficult to differentiate sometimes what difference in birth and prenatal care is due to actual need- or if it is simply the fact that an older mother is more concerned. Being older could also mean less elastic muscles and more prone to fatigue, this too could have an impact during pregnancy and birth.
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There are several popular programs on TV which deal with the concept of teenage pregnancy. While not condemning or condoning, it shows how difficult it is for a young person to have a child. Not being able to finish school with your friends, missing out on proms, parties and other normal teenage pastimes because you have a small baby to look after can be tough. Very often, the grandmother has to help a lot, putting a strain on relationships within the family.
A very young person is also in danger of complications. The body of a 16 year old is not really ready for pregnancy and birth. A teenage mother is more likely to get high blood pressure during pregnancy, often does not get adequate prenatal care (sometimes due to denial symptoms) and are at greater risk of having low birth weight or prematurely born babies.
Postpartum depression also seems to be a great problem among teenage mothers. Probably because of the quick change of life-style. From being a care-free child one day, she is forced to become responsible for another human being the next. The stigma that having a child early still carries in modern society, or simply the lack of understanding from her friends, can make things worse.
The most important thing
According to an article in the Independent a few years ago, "The "biologically optimal" time for childbearing is 20 to 35." There are risks with being very young or old when having a baby. But if these possible complications are taken into consideration, proper pre- and post natal care given, the problems can be minimized.
Whether old or young, a mother needs the support of friends and family. Being pregnant and giving birth is a great pressure, both physically and emotionally. Out of love for her child, a pregnant woman makes a lot of sacrifices- regardless of her age. Seeing the baby for the first time makes it all worth the effort, but the need of reassurance and practical help continues.