While the numbers certainly suggest that most married couples will at some point have kids, the actual parenting notion strikes some of us rather late. Whether it be schooling, a career focus, or just not believing that it’s the correct time either financially or emotionally in order to take on this momentous undertaking, some of us just wait longer in life to have children.
For your average dad, the reasons vary as to why you’d elect to have children later in life, but financial security, stability and job security are always among the top reasons. At some point in life, you’ll wake up, realize that you’re nearing middle age, and realize that it’s really now or never. While men can father children for most of their lives, their wives have far different complications with advanced age pregnancies. For those of you wondering about the term, “advanced age” it’s commonly accepted to mean age 35 and older when referring to women intending to start a family.
So, why is this such a problem?
Well, for one, risks of pregnancy complications increase significantly in women age 35 and older. Another contributing factor is fertility. Fertility rates begin declining in a woman’s late 20’s, although it’s not as drastic of a decline as we’ve been led to believe in previous years. That said, this decline certainly exists, and it picks up significant steam in a woman’s mid-30’s.
Approximately 1 in 3 couples that feature women 35 and older have some form of fertility problem while trying to conceive. The most common cause of age-related declines in fertility among women 35 and over are less frequent ovulation, and egg quality. As women age, they begin to have less frequent ovulation, and the eggs that they do release are of a declined quality in their 30’s and 40’s. To increase your chances of successful conception, you and your wife should ask your doctor for a fertility evaluation if you have been trying for 12 months or longer to conceive. If your spouse is over 35, it’s often best to ask for this evaluation after six months.
While these numbers don’t lie, breakthroughs in medical technology, such as in vitro fertilization, fertility treatments, and intrauterine inception have helped many advanced age couples who were previously unable to conceive.
Women aged 35-45 have a 10 to 15-percent higher risk of miscarriage than mothers younger than 30. Additionally, research has found that advanced age pregnancies lead to a higher instance of premature birth, high blood pressure, and a need for delivery by Caesarean section. Ectopic pregnancies (a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb) are also quite common, and research shows that the majority of ectopic pregnancies occur in women between the ages of 35 and 44.
The overall risk for having a child with a birth defect is rather small. However, the risk of genetic defects such as Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome), Trisomy 18 (Edwards syndrome), or Trisomy 13 (Patau Syndrome) increase significantly in advanced age pregnancies. Luckily, we now have a noninvasive prenatal test that screens for these trisomies. This test involves a small sample of the mother’s blood being sent to a lab for screening. You can view the results with your healthcare professional within 5 days from the date the lab receives the initial sample.
Is there anything I can do?
Aside from planning your family earlier in life, there isn’t really anything you – as a male – can do to lessen the impact of an advanced age pregnancy. For the mother, ensuring good health before and during the pregnancy can go a long way to minimize complications. Exercising and eating well can help to reduce the risk of diabetes and hypertension, which are two significant factors in conception, pregnancy and delivery. In short, keep your family healthy by taking care of your body. This is the biggest single item that you can do to reduce risk of complications.