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What Does Today’s Mom Look Like?

May 9, 2014

Current social trends show that women are delaying childbearing to pursue their careers and other endeavors. This data was captured in a new report issued by the National Center for Health Statistics of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which proves that over the last four decades, the average age of women at time of first child birth has increased. In fact, the report revealed that in 2012 there were more than 9 times as many first births to women aged 35 years and older than there were 4 decades earlier. So, what does that say about today’s first-time mom?

Today’s first time mom is:

  • More likely to have her first child after the age of 35
  • More likely to have a higher education
  • More likely to have access to social resources and social or familial support
  • Likely to have a greater income/socioeconomic status

These all sound like positive situational qualities and extraordinary benefits to delayed childbearing. However, being an “older” first-time mom comes with some negatives too. Today’s first time mom also has:

  • Greater health risks during pregnancy to herself and her baby(ies)
  • Greater risk of age-related illnesses, especially over the age of 40
  • Less time and energy to witness milestones in the child’s adolescent or early adult years

Some qualitative data suggested that today’s mom is also more likely to be a city dweller, residing in the Washington, DC or New York City area. Race also happened to be an indicator of later family building. White women, black women, and Asian Pacific Islanders had the greatest shift in age at which they had their first child.

But what about fertility? Remember, female fertility declines with age and more so after the age of 35. Women who are holding off on having children will have greater difficulty conceiving, greater need for fertility treatment, and will be more inclined to use egg donors or gestational surrogates. In general, a 42-year-old woman has less than 5% chance of conceiving with IVF with her own eggs, not to mention risks of fibroids or polyps which could make the uterus inhospitable to embryo implantation or fetal growth.

Considering the qualities of today’s mom might explain why approximately 2% of all infants born in the United States each year are conceived using assisted reproductive technology and why family size (number of children born to each family) is on the decline. Now, more than ever, it is important for women to be knowledgeable about their fertility and proactive about fertility preservation (egg freezing) while pursuing their life goals.

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