Conventional wisdom has always warned that having a baby too late in life can cause complications for both mom and baby. But some research has shown that moms who have babies later in life might not be so doomed after all. One study shows that having a baby in your 30s might actually help you live twice as long.
Throughout history, women usually started having babies almost as soon as they became fertile, finishing all their childbearing by the end of their 20s. In the 1950s, the average age that a woman had her first baby was 25. For the next fifty years, that average was steady. Then, between 2000-2014 the CDC reported a rapid increase in the average age for a woman to have her first baby: it went up to 26 years and four months — a one year, four month increase in just over a decade.
In the same timeframe, the number of women having their first child in their 30s increased, too: women having their first baby between the age of 30 to 34 went up by 28 percent, and over the age of 35 by 23 percent. Meanwhile, teen birth rates were going down, decreasing by 42 percent from 2000-2014 — though they'd been steadily trending down since the 1990s.
Having a baby "later in life" (which usually means in your 30s or later) has been hotly debated. Some point out that complications, including genetic conditions and miscarriage might be more common in births after 35. In general, fertility rates begin to decline around that time, too, which means it might just be harder to get pregnant in general.
But there are also some pretty obvious benefits to delaying childbearing for many women: having finished your education, gotten a handle on your career, having a more stable financial situation and perhaps having made a commitment to a partner you'd like to share childrearing responsibilities with, many women feel more prepared in their 30s than they would have in their 20s.
One finding from the The Long Life Family Study could indicate another benefit to having a baby later in life: it might actually help you live longer. The study found that women who finish childbearing after age 33 not only lived longer than women who had their last baby younger, but were twice as likely to live longer than other women in their age group, according to The Daily Mail.
The link has a lot to do with the so-called secret of how we age: the part of our cells called telomeres. Telomeres are like little "caps" at the end of each strand of DNA (kind of like those plastic caps on shoe laces). As we get older, our telomeres get shorter. Science has figured out that longer telomeres generally correlate to a longer life. The health of those telomeres (and our chromosomes in general) has a major impact on how we age, according to the study that was published in the journal The North American Menopause Society.
The study, originally published back in 2014, found that women who had their last child in their 30s had increased odds of having longer telomeres. What the study really found wasn't that a pregnancy later in life caused a woman to live longer, but that if a woman's reproductive life successfully extends into her 30s or even her 40s, there's a good chance that her genetics will support her living a longer life. Having a pregnancy at a so-called "advanced age" could serve as a marker for aging.
Further research is needed to understand how telomere length, pregnancy, and maternal age influence each other, but it definitely brings into question that conventional wisdom about not waiting too long to have a baby.