As a woman ages, her fertility slowly decreases. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that around age 32, fertility significantly declines, and the decline becomes rapid around age 37. Despite this, there is no question that women are continuing to have children later in life. A 2014 report from the Center for Disease Control states that the average age of women experiencing their first birth has continued to rise over the last four decades. More significantly, since the year 2000, 46 states and the District of Columbia have experienced a rise in the first-birth rate for women 35 and over.
So if your fertility decreases with age, how are more women than ever giving birth in their late 30’s and early 40’s? The answer truly lies with personal choices and modern medicine. For example, we now know more than ever before about things women can do to keep their body healthy in order to decrease the chances of having a medical disorder which decreases fertility. We also have modern technology, such as egg freezing, which allows for the possibility of having a child later in life. Not to mention that age does not preclude women from pursuing in vitro fertilization or other assisted reproductive technologies. Additionally, the CDC report shows that older women having children generally are more educated and have the financial resources to pursue these options.
In a recent Time Magazine article, Dr. Rebecca Starck, the chair of the department of regional obstetrics and gynecology at Cleveland Clinic, asserts that for women who want to have children later in life, taking care of themselves is the key. She believes a healthy 40 year old can have a less risky pregnancy than a 28 year old if the 40 year old prepares herself for pregnancy through healthy food and exercise, and maintains those habits throughout.