The specialist I see to keep tabs on my hypertension risk, also happens to be a high-risk pregnancy specialist specializing in women with high blood pressure of course. Not sure if my GP (general practitioner) did this deliberately or as some kind of joke or maybe he’s just really good… and I have to admit, he is really good. He cuts all the BS, doesn’t try annoyingly hard to be nice and tells you just like it is.
The conversation that sparked it all
In all the sessions I’ve had with him, this statement is the most memorable (other than that time he hold me I needed to lose 20 – 30 pounds) : “you know you’re not 21 anymore”.
He followed that with some annoyingly practical notes about how it’s better to have a baby sooner rather than later. He was saying that it’s generally ideal to have a baby in your twenties – by or before 25.
By or before 25? Hold up there doc. At twenty-five I was hardly able to manage myself and my emotions, how could I fathom the existence of a child? He went on to say that as women get into their thirties the chance of getting pregnant is reduced by about 30% and then chances for complications increase. After painting this dismal picture, he went on to say that when you’re over 35 the fertility treatment costs increased significantly. Now, adding the final nail in the coffin he ended this little lecture with “and then depending on how old you have children, how active will you be able to be with them?”
After this emotional roller-coaster, he seemed to be attempting to soften the blow: “You and your husband actually want children, right”.
“You both seem to be in pretty good jobs, so what are you waiting for?”
We’re not really financially secure at this point and we want to be sure we can actually afford this child.
“If we’re being honest, you will never be financially secure enough for a child.”
Was that suppose to be a burn? But, I guess he’s right. You will always find ways to justify your obstacles.
There’s a lot going on
Now, while I did not go home and started trying for kids right away… this whole conversation gave me something to think about. How long did I want to wait? How long should we wait? Will there ever be a right time? Our aging parents were already asking us at every opportunity when we’re going to think about some grand children…with my father-in-law promptly telling us in no uncertain terms that “five would be a good number”.
Five, what? Because we can’t be talking about kids.
Realistically, the best time to have children (at or around 25 years old) is not the best time for Millennials (or even our parents). Can you realistically say that at 25 you were/are ready to have a baby? If you are, amazing…hit the ground running and go start having them kids! For the rest of us, who were/are still trying to find our footing, it’s just not the best time.
With school loans, finding suitable employment, paying rent, surviving, working on your mental health, trying to maintain stable relationships, working hard, working hard not to spend your income on Amazon… there’s a lot going on.
So, realistically…when is the best time to have a baby?
We asked this on Instagram, and these were some of the responses:
Conversations around fertility tend to be really one-sided. Everyone talks about the woman because she’s born with a set amount of eggs. All the eggs she will ever have. Talk about a lot of responsibility. Walking around with millions of baby-making eggs just so casually everyday. Plus, processes like menstruation cause us to lose so many every month… I mean, damn! We need justice.
This should not be a one-sided conversation
The common thought, though, is that men are “limitless”. They have sperm forever and can produce endless children …on a whim basically. We’ve all heard some story of some insanely old man that fathered a child – the oldest I’ve heard about so far was 96 years old. This is all great…but this will not be everyone’s reality.
Unlike women, men can regenerate sperm, but it’s not immediate. It’s not like they have an endless fountain just gushing sperm 24/7. It takes about 74 days to regenerate new sperm from start to finish (source). So, not a constant stream of strong, baby-making sperm 24/7/365.
The effects of aging on fertility have been studied far less in men than in women, but research shows that both volume and quality of semen generally fall off as a man gets older.
…and I oop! The quantity and quality of sperm decreases as men age. To be fair, this age is around 40 (so, a bit later than women).
A 2004 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found that, among a sample of couples using in vitro fertilization, every additional year of a man's age corresponded to an 11-percent increase in the odds that a couple would not achieve a pregnancy.
This is regardless of the woman’s age. Additionally, as men age the chances for the child to be born with birth defects and complications increase. Further to this, a few things can also affect how much sperm is in semen and there is even a condition where men can have no sperm in their semen. Their diet can also increase or decrease the viability of sperm overtime.
So, this is not just a woman thing.
How long is too long to wait?
There are lots of reasons couples don’t want to have a baby right away…but the longer you wait, the more risks you might have to take. This article noted that for mothers over 35 (“the advanced maternal age”… damn!) the risk of chromosomal abnormalities increase (things that cause Down Syndrome and similar disorders). It noted that for men over 45 the risk of schizophrenia increases by 47% and the rate of childhood autism goes up 80%.
Generally though, stats show that people are waiting… but not too long. Back in 1990 the average age for women in the United Kingdom and USA to become mothers was 26, and for men it was 29, by 2016 that age for a woman was 29 and for men it was around 32.
So, with all these swirling negative stats, alarming facts and downright sad realities…when is the best time to have a child? Most studies say somewhere under 35 for women and under 40 for men (y’know…to be safe).
But, are you ready?
But having a child is much more than numbers. Are you psychologically ready to carry, grow, and raise another human being? Have you had this discussion with your partner? Will you prefer to be a single parent? Would you prefer to adopt?
There are a lot of components to figure out around “when is the right time to have a baby”. But, paraphrasing my doctor: you’ll never find the perfect time. Find the time that would be the “time of least resistance”, a time where you’re in a place of clarity.
For anyone on the LGBTQIA spectrum, don’t think you’re off the hook with just doing in-vitro or having a surrogate, it’s not that easy boo. The process is just as tedious (..and rewarding).
Let’s all take a breath, put some real thought into this and then figure out the right time for us to have a baby (group baby showers! jk, lol).