What is the best age to have a baby?

Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe, spokesperson for Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in Ireland:

“There isn’t one age that suits everybody. As far as medical outcomes go, the best age is between 25 and 35. If a woman’s in her 40s, she’s two or three-fold more likely to get gestational diabetes. She’s more likely to have blood pressure problems. If she has those prior to pregnancy, she’s more likely to develop pre-eclampsia. This can lead to stroke in the mum, kidney failure and seizures. It can lead to pre-term delivery of the baby.

“One in three pregnancies in over-40s women will end in miscarriage. Five percent of babies born to 45-year-olds will have Down’s Syndrome. Women choose a time they feel is good for them to have a baby — they’re not thinking of the medical factors, but of social supports and financial security.”

Dr Mary McCaffrey, consultantobstetrician and gynaecologist at Scotia Clinic, Tralee:

“A lot of older women trying for a baby may not have thought of abnormalities. How would they cope? If they were pregnant, would they want to know? It’s quite a complex issue.

“At least one-fifth of my patients are in their 40s. Do I despair when women in this age group come for fertility assistance? ‘Despair’ is the wrong word. I feel sorry that they’ll struggle to get pregnant. Often, they’re on a much faster rollercoaster if they’re going for fertility treatment than someone presenting at 35 — you’re working against the clock. It’s important we’re not pushing people so fast that they don’t have time to make good decisions.”

Mary Cronin, self-employedcommunity midwife:

“I would say the best age is in your 20s. The body is more supple. Once you go into the 30s, the body isn’t as flexible. In my experience, many women in their 20s give birth more straightforwardly. The large majority of younger women I see have a fairly quick labour. I had a 39-year-old who delivered quite quickly. I’m stunned when that happens.”

Anita O’Neill, fertility midwife specialist and manager of London-based Zita West Group:

“Women should start their families way before 35. But they wait for the ‘right’ time. There’s no right time — just get on with it.”

Dr Mary Wingfield, gynaecologist in Holles Street Hospital and medical director of Merrion Fertility Clinic:

“The big message is: women should be trying to get pregnant between 25 and 35, if they can. Some women get caught up with career. Yet, whenever you have a baby, it will interfere with your career. Your career will be there in five years’ time — your eggs and your age won’t.”

Dr David Walsh, medical director of Sims Fertility Clinic:

“Mother Nature thinks the best and safest age is in your 20s. Problems seem to come in the late 40s. Each new decade brings the same number of diseases, so the 40s bring four. Examples would be hypertension or diminishing bone health — you have to ask ‘will the woman be well enough to take care of the child’?”

Professor Neil McClure, professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Queen’s University Belfast and spokesperson for the British Fertility Society:

“These days, there’s a perception that we’re eternally young. That’s not the case. I doubt very much that a 55 or 60-year-old woman would embark on pregnancy without having very seriously thought about it. In my experience, people going outside the physiological norms would give it very serious thought.

“In the UK, there’s an upper age limit, which is not a legal one but a guide — we don’t treat women over 50. Physiologically, it would put extra stress on a woman.

“And does one really want to be standing at the school gate at 60, or putting a child through university at 75?”

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