This year, for the first time ever, the median age of people giving birth reached 30 years old according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau. It’s becoming more and more common for folks in their 40s and beyond to decide to expand their families. Headlines about celebrities and public figures doing just that have also become more frequent — like actress Hilary Swank who recently announced that she’s expecting twins at the age of 48.
Swank explained her rationale for waiting until later in life to have kids to Extra. “I was having a career and not having the right relationship until…four years ago, and all the elements needed to come together and be right.” Like many other women, Swank made the choice to prioritize her career and personal stability before welcoming children into her family.
As the median age of new parents continues to rise and the notion of having babies after 40 becomes more normalized, more and more folks may start weighing the pros and cons of having kids later in life. Here are some of the particular joys and challenges that come along with having kids after 40:
The challenges of becoming a parent after 40
- More testing and doctors appointments: People giving birth after 40 are more prone to experience complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes, so you may be expected to go through more medical tests and come to more OB/GYN appointments than other expectant parents.
- Higher likelihood of a C-Section birth: The increased risk of complications during pregnancy and birth that can come along with having a baby later in life also contribute to a higher likelihood that the birth will need to be a C-section rather than a vaginal birth.
- Even more fatigue than usual: Most people in their 30s or 40s can relate to not having as much energy as they used to, while fatigue is also a major symptom of pregnancy. This combination can lead to major fatigue for older pregnant people. You can mitigate this symptom by eating a healthy diet, getting plenty of exercise, and taking the appropriate vitamins.
- The assumptions and nosy questions: Parents and pregnant people are already constantly bombarded by questions and unsolicited advice from strangers, so it’s no surprise that anyone embarking on pregnancy in their 40s or beyond should expect even more prying and nosy questions than usual.
The benefits of becoming a parent after 40
- More stability: The older someone is when they have their first child, the more likely it is that they’ll have some financial stability, a permanent home, and a network of trusted loved ones. Many people have been choosing to prioritize their careers and personal development earlier on in life in order to achieve a greater level of stability before welcoming children to their families.
- More maturity: Aside from the practical implications of having more stability later in life, there’s also the emotional intelligence and maturity that comes along with age. Folks who wait until their 40s to start a family are more likely to have more of the self-awareness and patience it takes to parent effectively.
- More parents in your social circle: By the time you reach 40, it’s likely that you have at least a few friends who have already experienced pregnancy and parenting. The more of these people you have in your life, the more parenting knowledge, resources, and support you can count on.
- Lower risk of postpartum depression: Women who give birth over 40 are less likely to experience postpartum depression than their younger counterparts.
- Longer lifespan: A study by Harvard University revealed that postponing pregnancy, childbirth, and parenting until later in life is correlated with a longer lifespan than those who never have children or have children at a younger age.
Fertility challenges, once thought to greatly complicate attempts to conceive after the age of 35, are actually not as significant as we once believed. Normalizing pregnancy and childbirth later in life can help empower people to start their families at the time that works best for them, rather than feeling pressure to have kids before they’re ready.