What’s the best age to have a baby?

SmartParents weighs the pros and cons of having your baby in your 20s, 30s and 40s.

Starting a family is a very personal decision between a couple. And when they do decide that it's the right stage in their lives to do so, many couples don’t really factor in the best time to conceive.

They seldom view their age as a consideration, compared to how long they’ve been married, how stable their finances are, and so on.

But there are certain important physical and emotional factors tied to the age of the man and his wife. For instance, your age is a crucial factor if you are planning the number of kids to have, hoping to accomplish certain life experiences before starting a family, or considering the reproductive health of yourself and your spouse.

We’ve rounded up the physical and emotional pros and cons of procreating in your 20s, 30s and 40s.

You might be done with the stressful baby years before your career really gets going.

In your 20s

Physically…
You are at the pinnacle of reproductive health when you’re in your 20s. According to the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology in the UK, the ideal age for a woman to conceive is between 20 and 35, where there’s a lower risk of high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and other complications. The risk of miscarriage is also lower.

For both mums and dads, having a baby at a younger age also means that you’re better able to cope with the sleep deprivation, run after active toddlers, and perhaps, even win at the parent-and-child race at junior’s Sports Day in school.

Emotionally…
Younger parents may be better able to relate to their kids, simply because it wasn’t too long ago they were that age themselves. Says Elisa Low, 29, mum to Cara, 7, “I actually have a lot of fun doing parent-child activities with her in Primary school. I know some of the other parents don’t, and I think it could be because I’m one of the younger ones.” Your little ones are also more likely to have more involved grandparents, since they are probably young enough to be able to help with childcare.

While younger parents may struggle a little more financially in the early years, it could also mean that you might be done with the stressful baby years before your career really takes off. Mums who want to take some time off to be with their newborns would probably be more willing to make big life changes or take a career risk, than if their careers were already established.

Socially, parents in their 20s might find themselves being distanced from their childless friends, who find that their interests no longer converge as much as they used to. This can affect the emotional stability of parents. For instance, a 2014 study that was published in the journal Pediatrics found that men who became fathers at around age 25 saw a 68 per cent increase of depressive symptoms over their first five years of being dads.

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In your 30s

Physically…
Mums and dads at this age probably feel like they are in the prime of their lives. You’re likely to be more secure in your relationships and careers and couples who have been married for a couple of year may feel like they are finally ready to welcome a baby in their lives.

That said, some women may feel that their biological clock is starting to tick. There is a huge difference in your ability to get pregnant in your early 30s, as opposed to your late 30s. Conception starts to become a bit more difficult as you progress in this life stage, and there is a higher risk of a complicated pregnancy.

Thankfully, while you may not recover from childbirth as easily as a younger woman, women at this age still feel that they have plenty of stamina and resilience for parenting. While you enjoy greater stability, you’re still able to have fun, and aren’t as tired than if you had your kid in your 40s.

Emotionally…
Research at the Aarhus University in Denmark found that the best age to bring up a child is in your mid 30s and upwards ― older mums were raising children with fewer social, emotional and behavioural problems.

Mums over the age of 33 were less likely to verbally or physically punish their children.

The study also found that mums over the age of 33 were less likely to verbally or physically punish their children. This could be due to the social maturity and patience that develops with life experience and age.

In addition, by having a stronger sense of emotional readiness, mums in their 30s find they have a greater sense of self-awareness, so they are better able to communicate with their child.

What about dads? Men tend to be more concerned about being able to provide for a child, so at this age, husbands are more likely to be more financially stable than he was 10 years ago. However, it’s also at this age, that many dads are trying their hardest to climb career ladders – and end up struggling to balance work and family.

Says one dad, Jeffrey Chow, 33, “As a dad, of course I want to rush home and spend time with my young family, but seeing my single colleagues doing overtime, I feel like I’m compromising on my career if I leave early.”
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In your 40s and beyond

Physically…
It’s a widely known fact that pregnancy risks increase the older the woman gets. However, if you’ve put off pregnancy till your 40s, don’t fret, there are still many women and men who have babies at this age. However, the risk factors are getting steeper. Women in their 40s find it harder to conceive since their egg supply is dwindling and the eggs that your ovaries do release each month are more likely to have structural problems. This can result in babies with birth defects or chromosomal issues like Down syndrome.

But while it’s harder to get pregnant, it’s also when you’re most likely to be carrying multiples – since older women tend to release more than one egg at ovulation as they near menopause. Carrying multiples, of course, signals a higher risk pregnancy.

Pregnancy can also exacerbate age-related conditions, like varicose veins, and still or sore joints.

Pregnancy can also exacerbate age-related conditions, like varicose veins, and still or sore joints. Another downside to having children late ― you may end up having fewer children than you originally wanted.

As for the men, while there is no expiration date as to when they can father a child, older men tend to produce more defective sperm, which contain DNA mutations that can harm your offspring. Besides health problems, these DNA mutations can also increase the likelihood of miscarriage and premature births.

Another point to consider – older parents may have relatively less energy to deal with the sleepless nights and physical activities of their young ‘uns, compared to their more youthful counterparts.

Emotionally…
Here’s where the older mums and dads have an upper hand ― they’re more likely to have had time to see the world, have established their careers and be more financially stable.

In addition, a study by Lloyds Bank in London found that fathers in their 40s and up were three times more likely to play an active role in raising their child than their younger counterparts. One reason for this could be that the older dads were more established in their careers and had more time to devote to nurturing their little ones. They’ll also be more patient and calm, and less reactive, since testosterone rates drop about 1 per cent per year.

As a couple, they would likely have been together for a longer time, and know each other very well, providing the emotional stability to start a family.

Photos: iStock

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