Ask women who are delaying motherhood why, and most likely they’ll say it’s because they’re not in a relationship. Others aren’t having babies, or are planning to have kids later in life, because they’re pursuing advanced degrees, their careers are too consuming, their finances aren’t where they want them to be—or a number of other reasons.
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The good news? Studies have determined that—though it’s more difficult, biologically—when women are able to get pregnant and have children later in life, there are significant benefits to both moms and their children. Let’s dive in!
Having children later in life means a stronger family focus—and often, better parenting.
In her book Ready: Why Women Are Embracing the New Later Motherhood, Elizabeth Gregory discusses the fact that, because women who have children later in life have often achieved many personal and career goals, they’re typically more focused on their families. And the maturity and stability that often comes with age translates to more positive, patient parenting.
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This is backed up by a study from the UK, which demonstrated that the children of older mothers experience fewer unintentional injuries and socio-emotional problems, suggesting that “women with more life experiences are able to draw upon a wider range of support that can help to reduce some of the stress of parenting.” A Danish study had similar results. “We know that people become more mentally flexible with age, are more tolerant of other people and thrive better emotionally themselves,” a professor who conducted the study stated. “Psychological maturity may explain why older mothers do not scold and physically discipline their children as much… thereby [contributing] to a positive psychosocial environment” for their children.
Older mothers usually have more financial power.
A survey of European women revealed that women are often earning their highest salary at age 39. Not only do older women (and older people, in general) typically have higher salaries—women who have children later in life experience an increase in annual salary compared to women who have children earlier.
Comparing full-time professional women between the ages of 40 and 45, all of whom had advanced degrees, Gregory found that those who’d become parents at 35 were making an average of $50,000 per year more than those who’d had their first child at 20.
That’s backed up by US Census results, which reveal that, while having a baby period decreases a woman’s lifetime earning potential, that decrease can be offset a little if she delays motherhood just 5 years—having a baby at age 35 instead of 30 results in an average salary increase of $16,000.
Learn more about how egg freezing can actually save you money.
Women who have children later in life are more likely to be partnered.
According to Gregory, over 85% of women having children later in life are partnered or married, and having two parents generally means added emotional and physical support and greater financial benefits for children.
Delaying motherhood could mean a longer life—and a sharper brain—for mom.
Several studies agree that there is a positive association between delayed motherhood and longevity. A 2015 study showed that women who have their last child after age 33 are more likely to live to 95. Another study showed that having children later in life is “positively related to aspects of cognition later in life.”
The world is always advancing—so a later birth year has its advantages.
A 2016 Swedish study demonstrated that being born later is a real boon. In one scenario, a 20-year-old woman gives birth in 1980. If that same women had children later in life, at age 40, she would have given birth in 2000. That 20-year span makes a significant difference in the expected health and education of the child, since the second half of the 20th century brought a number of educational, societal, and technological improvements. The study identifies lower age-specific mortality, increased life expectancy, increased average height (indicative of better early life conditions), and better education as expectations for children born later.
But it’s no surprise that getting pregnant later might not be easy.
Having children later in life has many benefits, but not always simple—age-related fertility decline is real. Women’s fertility starts to decline rapidly by age 35. By age 40, the chance of getting pregnant naturally is just 5% per month. And it’s not just harder to get pregnant, it’s also harder to have a healthy baby—women who try to conceive after age 35 have significantly increased chances of infertility, miscarriage, or giving birth to a child with a genetic disorder. That’s because not only does a woman’s egg count decrease as she gets older; the quality of the eggs decreases, too.
Freezing your eggs before age 35 lets you balance the benefits of having children later in life with the difficulty of conceiving later.
At Extend Fertility, our doctors recommend women freeze their eggs before the age of 35, when eggs are more plentiful and a greater percentage are genetically normal. By freezing them, the eggs avoid the damage that comes with age, leaving them as healthy as they were when they were frozen and increasing the chance that she’ll be able to have children later in life.
Learn more about why egg freezing works.
Bottom line: women in the US are increasingly having their first child later, and studies show this could be extremely beneficial for them and their babies. Think you might be in this camp? Consider planning ahead by freezing your eggs now.