Is there really such a thing as 'the best' or 'the perfect' age to have a baby?
After all, everyone is SO different. Some of us feel ready to become mums in our 20s, while others choose to wait until their 30s, 40s – a few women even become mums in their 50s, thanks to fertility treatments like IVF.
There's no one-size-fits-all age guideline for taking on the responsibility of a baby - though there is technically a best time in our lives for us to physically get pregnant.
Here, we take a look at studies and research - and ask a few experts - to let you know if there really is an ideal age to begin your motherhood journey…
When is the ‘best age’ to get pregnant?
The best time to get pregnant is in your 20s, if you’re going off biology. Some docs would even say that we're most fertile in our late teens.
But, generally, docs put the most ‘secure’ fertility age range as 20 – 35.
Don't let that stat put your off. It's totally possible for women aged 35 and over to get pregnant – plenty do.
However, one study says that these women are 6 times more likely to have problems getting pregnant compared with those 10 years younger. Up to 30% of 35-year-olds take longer than a year to get pregnant compared to only 5% of 25-year-olds.
To break it down further: fertility starts to drop off after age 32, and really starts to decline after age 37.
The same 2011 study, a major paper by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), also claimed that the rate of 40+ women giving birth has trebled over the last 20 years.
They also say that women in their late 30s and 40s are more likely to experience pregnancy complications such as miscarriage, pre-eclampsia, ectopic pregnancy and stillbirth - and are also far more likely to need a C-section during labour.
What’s the average childbearing age?
The average age is on the higher end of the ‘best age’ scale, as it happens.
The same RCOG study, published in the Obstetrician and Gynaecologist journal, shared the most common age for women to become first time mums: 29.3 years of age.
To put that into perspective: in 1968, the average age was 23. Interesting, right?
Is there a 'best age' for a man to have a baby?
We go on about female fertility a lot here – but it’s important to know that male fertility declines, too.
Especially since we sometimes see some men (a few rockstars come to mind) welcoming new babies well into their 60s, 70s and even 80s, with their younger partners.
Male fertility generally starts to decline at age 25, and doctors estimate that the average 40-year-old man takes 2 years to get his partner pregnant, even if she’s in her 20s.
What do the experts say?
Here at MFM HQ, we reckon the facts about female fertility are pretty clear. Most, if not all, of us know by now – especially if we’re in the process of trying to conceive.
That said, we all have to do what feels right for us, what works best for our lives and individual circumstances.
The experts, generally, tend to agree that the info needs to be out there. David Utting, specialist registrar in obstetrics and gynaecology at Kingston Hospital NHS Trust and co-author of the review said:
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"Clear facts on fertility need to be made available to women of all ages to remind them that the most secure age for childbearing remains 20-35."
Jason Waugh, consultant in obstetrics, added: "There are a number of reasons why women are leaving it later to start a family, for example, career concerns, financial reasons and finding a suitable partner.
"However, women should be given more information on the unpredictability of pregnancy and the problems that can occur in older mothers."
Lindsey Harris, founder of the website Mother 35+, agrees that info is good, but also that those other considerations are nothing to sniff at:
"It is the job of the medical profession to give people the facts about fertility, but not every woman is in the right position to have a baby under the age of 35.
"Older mothers are often aware of the risks and we are there to give them the support and reassurance they need."
Have your say
When did you have your baby? Did you feel ready to become a parent – or do you ever wonder what it would’ve been like to be older (or younger)?
Images: Getty Images