Am I too old to have a baby?
That is a question that creates deep anxiety for some women every day. Aware that their biological clocks are ticking, many women find anguish in reluctantly putting off motherhood for a host of personal reasons.
These can range from finding a suitable mate to advancing their education and jobs, or wanting to be financially stable before starting a family.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/ National Center for Health Statistics reported that the birth rate among teens and women in their early 20s hit historic lows in 2012. Meanwhile, the proportion of women having babies in their 30s and early 40s rose.
Is there a magical age when a woman is simply too old to have a baby?
Naturally speaking, the answer is yes. After menopause, a woman’s fertility stops as hormone levels drop. Menopause is defined as the absence of your menstrual period for one year.
Generally, menopause starts between age 40 and 55 years of age and lasts 5-10 years. However, recent research shows that biological age doesn’t always correlate with a woman’s reproductive fertility.
Some women can have successful pregnancies at the age of 50, whereas others are unable to get pregnant when they are 30 years old. Researchers are not yet able to fully explain such differences, but there’s mounting evidence that our biological clocks tick at different rates.
Just as the age of menopause onset varies, “the natural ability to have a child at an older age likely indicates that a woman’s reproductive system is aging slowly, and therefore so is the rest of her body,” said Thomas Perls, a professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.
Perls and his colleagues conducted a study published in the journal Menopause which found that women who gave birth after age 33 had twice the odds of living to 95 years or older than those who had their last child by age 29.
The study did not prove causation. But it did indicate that gene variations enabling women to have babies by natural means at a later age may also be tied to living longer lives. Other studies have turned up similar results.