A good friend of mine recently came to me with a dilemma. She's about to finish graduate school and was unsure as to whether or not she should try for a baby now, or wait until her life was little less hectic and her career more established. It might seem like an easy decision to make for some, but when you're older the answer isn't so clear. So if you're asking, "Should I have a baby after 35?" know that you're not alone. These questions aren't easy to answer, and the answers are often complex.
I would know — I've been there. I completely understand how difficult it can be to answer these questions and weigh the pros and cons. The decision to have a baby is arguably one of the most important decisions a person can make. And, as you get older and life gets more complicated, it's typical to wonder if you should have a baby after 35.
Looking back, I can tell you that, personally, I am absolutely glad I did. Waiting to have kids until I was in my 30s meant that I was able to establish myself in a career and gain some financial stability before having children. I had also been through a lot before deciding to have a kid in my late-30s, including a marriage, two kids, a divorce, and a second marriage. I had the life experience that let me know my family wasn't complete. And then I had our son.
It wasn't easy, though. Of my three pregnancies, my last (at age 38) was by far the hardest on my body. I have made peace with the fact that I will not likely ever fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes ever again. And in having to deal with rude comments and questions about my age, health, and family planning, I've been forced to grow a pretty thick skin.
In the end, and always, the only person who can decide if you should have a baby after 35 is you. If you think you are leaning in that direction, though, here are some signs to look for from someone who has been there:
You Are Relatively Healthy
I would be lying if I told you that I wasn't scared to have a baby after 35. I mean, my OB-GYN put a big red sticker on my chart that read, "Advanced Maternal Age." Worse, almost everyone who found out I was pregnant immediately asked if it was safe. But at 38 I was much healthier than I was in my 20s, or at any time during my previous pregnancies.
Yes, there are increased risks for older pregnant people, like pre-eclampsia and miscarriage, but medical technology is catching up with the fact that many people are choosing to start their families later in life. In fact, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found mortality is actually lower for women who have their first baby in their 30s.
Your Life Is Pretty Stable
While no one is 100 percent ready to have a baby, it's pretty important to have all of your ducks in a row, for lack of a better term. If you're going through major life changes, or it's not the right time to be pregnant, it's OK to wait to get pregnant. Yes, even if it means having a baby after 35.
You Have An Awesome OB-GYN
I cannot stress the importance of finding an awesome OB-GYN or midwife before you get pregnant, especially if you have underlying health issues or concerns about having a baby after 35. You can even go in for a pre-conception office visit to assess your own individual health and fertility, to help you decide whether or not it's healthy for you to try to get pregnant right now.
You Are Willing To Make Some Sacrifices
Having kids later in life enabled me to do things like travel, finish school, and buy a house before settling down. But, it also came with sacrifices. Starting over with a baby in my late 30s was hard; so much harder than it was the first time. It's impacted my relationship, my career, my mental health, and my future. Those are all things one should consider before having a child... and, really, at any age.
You Understand That It Might Be Different
Being pregnant in my early 30s was hard. Being pregnant in my late-30s was exhausting, painful, and unbearably hard. I don't regret it, but I definitely made some sacrifices to accommodate the changes and differences. Parenting in my 40s has been hard, too. I don't have as much energy as I used to, and I am a complete mess most of the time. But I am also so much more laid back with my youngest; more than I ever was with my older kids.
You Understand It Might Take Longer To Get Pregnant
If you are planning a pregnancy after age 35, you might want to prepare yourself for a longer wait. No matter how much planning you do, your body might have a mind of its own (you know, the one that isn't in your head). The number of eggs that you have and the health of those eggs decreases as you age, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. At the same time, your risk of certain health conditions, like endometriosis and fibroids, goes up, which can also make it harder to get pregnant.
A Baby Fits With Your Current Plans
Having a baby after 35 was the right choice for me and my family. My husband and I had both been married previously, and had two children with our former spouses. Our son is like a bridge between the two sides of our families, helping to bring us all together.
You Decide That You Are Ready
Ultimately, the only person who can decide when or whether to have a baby is you. Life is completely relative, age is just a number, and you are the expert on your own life. Besides, in my experience, you can never actually know if it's really the perfect time, no matter how many pro/con lists you make, how old you will be when you have them, or what other people might think about your pregnancy.