Technically, women can already get pregnant during puberty by the time their menstrual period starts, until they stop getting it during menopause. A woman’s reproductive years are between ages 12 to 51 on average.
Thanks to contraception, couples now have control if they want a child, when they’ll have a child, and how many they want.
If you ask people what the “best” age to get pregnant is, you’ll get a bunch of different answers each time. According to experts, the ideal time to get pregnant is between your late 20s to early 30s.
When you want to get pregnant is a personal choice, but there are a few things to ponder on.
While there isn’t a “best age” to bear a child, your age should also be considered. Fertility naturally declines as you get older. Nothing wrong with waiting a bit later to start a family, but getting pregnant could get difficult and have more risks with age.
How does age affect fertility?
Women are born with about 2 million egg cells, no more no less. One egg cell is used up for every menstrual cycle, which you have monthly. As the years go by, the quality and quantity of egg cells gradually fall. You also have higher chances of getting fertility-affecting conditions, such as endometriosis, as you get older.
Aside from age, smoking, radiation and chemotherapy from cancer treatment, and pelvic infection could also reduce your chances of getting pregnant.
Does age have anything to do with male fertility, too?
Age also has something to do with a man’s fertility. It also declines as he gets older, but it often happens later, at around age 40.
Semen volume and sperm counts are lower after a man hits his 40s. His sperm cells also don’t swim as well at this age.
An older man’s sperm cells have higher chances of carrying genetic abnormalities, compared to those of a younger man.
It may take more time for a woman to get pregnant if the man is older, and her risk for a miscarriage is greater, regardless of her age.
A man beyond 40s can still father children, but it might be more difficult than it was earlier in his life.
What are the benefits of getting pregnant at certain ages?
In your 20s
Women are at the peak of their fertility when in their 20s. They have the best chance of getting pregnant at this age.
This is the stage when you have the most number of good quality egg cells available. Aside from that, pregnancy risks are at the lowest, too.
It’s easy to get pregnant and to BE pregnant at this age. Your body is in the peak condition of your adult life, making it easier for you to handle the additional load on your body.
Physically, your 20s might be the best time to get pregnant, but that might not be the same case in other aspects of your life.
Most likely you have just started your career or marriage at this age. Pregnancy and motherhood requires a lot of commitment and responsibility. Your time might not be enough to fulfill your own needs, such as professional success and having time alone with your partner.
It’s also important to think about your career, maturity, wants as an individual, goals as a couple, and most importantly, financial stability. You’re making a huge decision in your life, so take as much time as you need to think it through. Don’t pressure yourself!
In your 30s
You may feel that you’ve already made great accomplishments professionally and personally by the time you’re in your 30s. Maybe these have made you feel more prepared emotionally and financially for pregnancy and motherhood.
While you’ve gained more experience in your life and career, there is a catch that comes with it.
Fertility begins to gradually decline when you hit 32. This decline further speeds up after age 35. Getting pregnant might take more time even if you’re in great shape and have no medical conditions affecting fertility.
The risk for miscarriage, genetic abnormalities, and pregnancy-related complications also get higher after 35.
Getting pregnant in your 30s doesn’t immediately mean that you’ll experience complications. Your doctor will definitely help you make sure that you and your baby are healthy, and may recommend additional screening and testing.
In your 40s
Your menstrual cycle may start being irregular before you reach menopause. The number of egg cells is also more limited, and they may not be as best as those when you were in your 20s.
In a medical perspective, your 40s could be the toughest stage for a pregnancy. It’s still possible for most women to have a healthy pregnancy, but risks increase significantly at this age. Conception will even be harder, and risks for a miscarriage, complications, and genetic abnormalities are much higher. Your doctor may do extra testing and monitoring to watch out for possible complications.
By the time you’re in your 40s, you’re also more prone to other health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These could lead to pregnancy complications. Getting pregnant at this age may also worsen chronic conditions and early signs of aging. Your body might have a difficult time coping with the additional load of pregnancy.
Doctors may not recommend having a child in your 40s, but there are also a few other pros if you do. You’re older, wiser, and more mature to handle pregnancy. That self-confidence knowing that you’re ready to be a mommy is very important! You’re also more financially stable at this age, which leaves you more time and flexibility to focus on motherhood.
Benefits of starting a family later in life
Starting a family later in life gives you more time to:
- Save up money and be financially secure
- Establish your career
- Strengthen your marriage and relationship with your partner
- Pursue your personal goals
- Pursue your goals as a couple
- Prepare yourself emotionally
Benefits of having children at a younger age
Getting pregnant at a younger age:
- Is easier, since you have a lot of good-quality egg cells
- Has less risks for pregnancy complications
- More beneficial to your baby’s health
- Makes it easier for your body to handle the pregnancy
Tips for conception
If you’ve already made a decision and want to start trying for a baby, here are a few things to help you make that parenthood dream come true:
- Get to a healthy weight. Being overweight or underweight can affect ovulation and make it difficult to conceive.
- Quit smoking. Smoking can damage your egg cells, and increase your risk for a miscarriage if you do get pregnant.
- Have a healthy diet. A high-fat diet can make you gain weight and disrupt your reproductive cycle.
- Limit alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol on a regular basis can make it difficult for you to get pregnant, and affect fetal development.
Not yet ready to get pregnant?
It’s okay if you’re not yet ready to get pregnant or not sure yet if you really want to. This decision is entirely up to YOU. Let your partner know, too, what you have decided on. Don’t let what other people say influence your choice.
Using a a contraceptive method will help you make sure that you don’t get pregnant while you’re not yet ready. There are a lot of reliable options available, so head over to your doctor who can help you find out what will suit you best.
When is it time to see a fertility specialist?
Don’t get frustrated if you’re having difficulty getting pregnant. Your doctor may give you more tips on how you can succeed. It’s recommended that you see a fertility specialist if:
- You’re 35 or younger and you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year.
- You’re over 35 and you’ve been trying for more than 6 months.
- You’re over 40 and you’d like to start a family.
The doctor may have you and your partner undergo some tests to find out if any of you have a condition preventing you from conceiving.
Difficulty getting pregnant isn’t just a woman’s problem. Men can also be infertile. That’s why it’s important that both of you get tested because it’s also possible that it’s your partner that has the problem or condition.
Whether you choose to have kids in your 20s, 30s, or 40s, what matters is that the decision you make is something you really want. If you’ve decided that you don’t want kids, that is completely and totally OKAY! Not having kids doesn’t make you less of a woman or less of a person. Listen to your own body, you know what’s right for you. Do what will make you happy and satisfied with your life.