Parenting · Pregnancy

Delaying parenthood:  Does age really matter?

Two adults standing back to back

A friend of mine recently mentioned that he and his wife of 4 years have talked about when they should start having a family.  His wife’s 29th birthday was just around the corner and he was now 37 years old.  They intentionally delayed having to make this decision since they had started new jobs and were saving up to purchase a new home.

They, like many adults in their late 20’s to late 30’s, are delaying pregnancy.  For many, this decision is made based on their own circumstances whether it be due to finances, school, work, or not finding the right partner.  Whatever the reasons, the trend in Canada has been for more women than any other age group to be pregnant or to be planning a pregnancy in their 30’s.

In Canada, it is estimated 1 in every 5 births is to a woman age 35 years or older.

The good news is that many people age 35 and over have uncomplicated pregnancies and healthy babies; however, we do know a woman’s fertility declines in her early to mid-thirties.  Research also suggests men over 40 have a decrease in fertility.  Read more on men’s health and fertility.

With age, there are also other risks.  Too often, people are only learning about these risks when they’re grappling with fertility problems and say, “if only I had known when I was younger“.

It’s okay to delay having a baby until the time is right for you. Making an informed decision will result in a better you for a better future.

What are some risks of having a baby when you’re age 35 years and over?

  • Fertility decreases with age for everyone, regardless of gender, which may make it difficult to achieve a pregnancy.
  • Increased risk of having medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, and gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
  • Increased risk of having a caesarean section delivery.
  • Sperm quality decreases and health problems can develop due to aging.
  • Multiple births with twins, triplets or more babies can occur more often. This is especially true when pregnancy is achieved with fertility treatments.
  • Pregnancy loss through miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy or stillbirth is higher.
  • Preterm birth (when a baby is born before 37 weeks) can result in babies that are smaller and are at an increased risk to have health problems.
  • Chromosome abnormalities, schizophrenia, and autism spectrum disorders have all been linked to children born to men age 40 years & older.

It’s important to be as healthy as possible now if you’re planning a pregnancy to help protect your fertility and increase your chances of having a healthy baby when ready.

Tips to stay healthy for everyone:

  1. Have a regular check-up with your health-care provider to:
  1. Eat healthy, be physically active & maintain a healthy weight.
  2. If you are a person who may get pregnant, take a multivitamin with 0.4 mg of folic acid.
  3. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs including cannabis.
  4. Reduce harmful environmental exposures such as lead, pesticides, and solvents. Antibacterial soaps are also not recommended as they contain Triclosan, a hormone disrupter that can affect fertility.
  5. Space your pregnancies, waiting 18 months to 5 years before trying to get pregnant again is best.

If you have questions or concerns about your fertility or planning a pregnancy:

  • Consult with your health care provider
  • Connect with a Public Health Nurse via eChat or call (416) 338-7600
  • Consult with a Sexual Health InfoLine counsellor

Comment below and tell us how you are taking steps to have a healthy baby!  What’s your plan?

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