Carrie Underwood gave birth to her second child in early 2019. She was just shy of 36 years old. But before having her second child, Underwood made headlines for expressing worry and fear that she and her husband, Mike Fisher, may have missed their chance to have a big family, given her later start in childbearing.1 Most women generally share their fear of getting pregnant after age 35. For decades, we have been told that women shouldn’t have babies at such an “advanced” age. But is that still true? Why or why not?
Is It Okay to Get Pregnant After 35? Science Says Yes!
Underwood probably meant well, but she was mistaken to think she couldn’t still have multiple children into her 30s and 40s. Science and technology have aided women in having healthy pregnancies later in life. Science has also shown several surprising benefits to having kids later in life.
Being An “Older Mom” Is Not As Risky As Once Believed
Our society sometimes promotes a cultural message that women over 35 can’t (or shouldn’t) get pregnant. But science says otherwise. While there can be increased risks of having a baby after age 35, the truth is that many women are having babies into their 40s. The rate of women having babies in this decade (age 40-49) has increased since 1985. According to the CDC, in 2018, women between the ages of 40 and 45 gave birth to about 11.8 babies for every 1,000 women.2
Maternal age has been increasing across the range of ages for a while now. This trend of women having children at later ages seems like it will continue. The ongoing New England Centenarian Study even found that women who gave birth after 40 were four times more likely to live to 100 than women who had children at a younger age!3
A study out of JAMA Internal Medicine shows that feeling old versus being old are two different things.4 The study found that feeling youthful and having that kind of positive attitude that comes with having young children helps older parents live a longer, happier, and more carefree life. Another recent study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society revealed that moms over age 35 benefit from the hormones that flood the body and brain during pregnancy.5 These hormones boost problem-solving, mental reasoning, and memory. Furthermore, additional literature shows that parents over the age of forty are happier parents.6
And while certain risks become more likely after age 35, it doesn’t necessarily mean pregnancy will be riskier.7 A woman’s fertility will naturally decline after around 35, so the likelihood of conceiving may be less. And the rates of miscarriage, stillbirth and genetic abnormalities increase as a woman ages. So it will always be important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.
Don’t Let Age Deter You.
There is no perfect time to get pregnant. For many women, the choice to have a baby is very personal and is a decision that requires many factors. However, many people have often been told that getting pregnant after 35 increases health risks for mother and child. This might have led some women who’d like to conceive to believe that not many mothers have babies after this point. However, the truth is that many women are giving birth successfully in their 40s to healthy and happy babies.
The shift in women having babies later in life is due to more women waiting longer to have children, pursuing higher education, and having relationship and career choices that differ from those made by women fifty years ago.8 So, if you’re older than 35 (or not ready to have a baby yet), talk to your doctor about your concerns. But rest assured, being an “older mama” isn’t nearly as taboo as we once thought.