Nathan Bertoldo, MD, MP, Cache Valley Hospital
No matter how old you are, health and nutrition are the foundation of a healthy pregnancy. The healthier you are when you get pregnant, the more likely you will stay healthy during your pregnancy. If you have a health condition, the risk goes up. This is especially true if you’re going into your pregnancy with a chronic condition, like obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure.
But when is the best age to get pregnant? Here are some specific things to consider based on your age.
In your 20s
The assumption is younger is better. For most women, this is true. It’s much easier to get pregnant in your 20s. If you’re 20-something, you probably know how to rally and stay up all night (which your baby will probably require you to do). Your youthful energy can be a real asset as you go from pregnancy to a new mom.
Financially, it could be a harder time to have kids. That said, some people argue that it’s easier to take time off from your job in your 20s if you work versus later on in your life.
In your 30s
Getting pregnant does get harder as you age. Every month, a healthy, fertile 30-year-old woman has a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant, and this number continues to shrink over time, reaching five percent once you hit 40, according to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
If you are pregnant and 30-something, you will probably be more closely monitored than a woman in her 20s. Depending on your risk factors, your doctor might recommend genetic testing including an amniocentesis, a test used to diagnose Down syndrome and other chromosomal abnormalities.
Ask your doctor if you will need more frequent prenatal visits, especially as your due date approaches.
The good news is that many women in their 30s have their health in order. You’ve likely ditched all the bad habits of your college years and graduated from all-nighters to nights in.
In your 40s
Preparing to have a baby in your 40s is riskier than it is in your 20s. By 40 years old, the chance that you’ll get pregnant drops to five percent per menstrual cycle, according to The American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Women over 40 also have a higher risk of gestational diabetes, according to a 2012 study in the Journal of Maternal-Fetal and Neonatal Medicine.
Your risk of having a baby with a chromosome defect like Down syndrome also increases. For women over 40, the risk is one in 30. For comparison, a 25-year-old woman’s risk is one in 1,250, according to the March of Dimes.
Women over 40 also have a slightly higher risk of preeclampsia, a condition that causes high blood pressure during pregnancy, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation. Postpartum support from a doula or parenting group can be really important for new moms in their 40s.
The great news for older moms is that there are more financial resources to help you get the support you need.
And, the best age for pregnancy is…
Medically, your 20s are the optimal time to get pregnant. Despite the fact that some things are just easier when you’re younger, the truth is the best time for pregnancy also depends on where your health is and what is happening in your personal life. Talk to your doctor about your baby plans, and see which risks are more important to watch for based on your age and health status.