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.
Tracy Kahn, a single, professional woman, gave birth to her first daughter Scarlett. Two years later at the age of 51, Kahn, who underwent IVF treatments, delivered a second healthy baby girl on February 18, 2015, the New York Post reported.
“I’m proof that just because a woman is single, older and career-oriented, she doesn’t have to give up on her dreams of being a mom,” Kahn told the website Inquisitr.
“You really can have it all. I get criticism but that’s OK, I can handle that.”
There are inherent risks that accompany pregnancy and childbirth.
Some of these risks, such as spontaneous miscarriage, Down Syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities, autism, gestational diabetes and hypertension during pregnancy, and requiring a Cesarean delivery do increase with maternal age.
While older women give birth to healthy babies more often than not, health experts advise that these risks should be considered and discussed with your health professional prior to conceiving, especially if you are older than 35 years of age.
Reproduction later in life is a marker for longevity in women: The Long Life Family Study. Press release, Boston University Medical Center, June 25, 2014.
This is what it’s like to be a new mom at 51. New York Post. Jane Ridley. 26 Feb. 2015.
Tracey Kahn Baby: 51-Year-Old Single Mom Gives Birth To A Healthy Baby Girl. Inquisitr. 27 Feb. 2015.
National Vital Statistic Reports. Births: Preliminary Data for 2012. CDC. 6 Sep 2013, Vol.62, No.3. Online:
Reviewed March 12, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith