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What is the best age to have a baby?

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The average age for women to have their first baby has risen from 27 to 28.5 in recent years.

In 2014, over half of all births were to mothers aged 30 and over and two-thirds of fathers were aged 30 and over. Meanwhile, the pregnancy rate for women over the age of 40 is also at a record high.

However, some experts have been hitting back at the trend for later life pregnancies. Speaking at a talk at the Cheltenham Science Festival titled 'The Fertility Time Bomb', gynaecologist Dr Gillian Lockwood warned that 'women can't Botox their ovaries', adding that she feels the peak age for women to have a baby is 25.

There's no denying that some women who have children later in life wish they'd started a family earlier.

Newsreader Natasha Kaplinsky gave birth to her two children, Arlo and Angelica, in her late thirties, but now says she wishes she'd had children younger. She told the Mail Online, 'I met my husband later on in life. I feel very fortunate with my two, but I feel I would be pushing my luck if I tried again... I didn't know what it would feel like to have children and it's only since then that I wished I had started sooner. I would have had a whole football team if I could have done!'

Natasha's comments came not long after fellow TV star Kate Garraway backed a campaign encouraging women to have children younger, before it becomes too late. Kate, who had her children Darcey and William at 38 and 42 said, 'In some ways I wish I'd had my babies younger. Now I would love a third child but I've almost certainly left it too late. My fertility door is slamming shut.'

However, some celebrities, such as Halle Berry for example, who welcomed her second child in 2013 at the age of 47, are proving that it is still possible to have a healthy pregnancy in their 40s.

On the other end of the scale, teenage pregnancy rates in the UK are dropping - there were about 23 conceptions per 1,000 15 to 17-year-old girls in 2014, compared to a high of 55 in 1971, according to the Office of National Statistics.

So what is the best age to have a baby? Take a look at pros and cons for each age group and decide for yourself...



Your teens

Having a child while you're still maturing yourself isn't always a good idea, but with the right support, many teenagers can become great mothers.

Pros

1. You'll have more natural energy and physical resilience at this age than any other, so the sleepless nights and energy-draining demands a newborn baby makes on you might not affect you so deeply.
2. You're less likely to have a job or established career to balance with your new responsibilities, so you can concentrate more fully on being a mum.
3. You're young enough to relate more easily to your child as he or she grows up.

Cons

1. You are statistically more likely to give birth prematurely or have a low birth-weight baby, and you are at increased risk of developing complications during pregnancy.
2. You are still growing yourself. This can affect the development of the placenta, which in turn can affect your baby's health. Babies born to teenage mothers are at increased risk of suffering health problems.
3. You may lack the emotional maturity needed to deal with motherhood and all the sacrifices you'll have to make - becoming a mum is one of life's biggest changes, and you might find it difficult to cope at such a young age.
4. Teenage mums are often in less stable relationships, and more likely to end up as single parents.
5. Your baby will interfere with your education, and you'll have to be incredibly determined and hardworking to catch up.
6. Your savings and income may not be as high as other mothers who have their babies later, meaning you could be more likely to struggle financially.

Your 20s

Until recently, the average age for women to give birth was 27 and it's easy to understand why. This decade is still considered by many to be the most natural time to have a baby.

Pros

1. Your fertility reaches its peak in your early 20s. Your body is ready for pregnancy - and because you're still young, it's supple and flexible enough to recover quickly too.
2. You are still fit and more full of energy than you might be in later decades. You're young enough to cope physically with the demands of a new baby.
3. You've had longer to mature, and are more likely to be in a stable relationship with a steady income than you were in your teens.

Cons

1. Your social life will suffer. If you like going out most nights, motherhood can be a significant chance of lifestyle.
2. Your career might still be in its early stages, and it will probably have to take a back seat, particularly when your baby is very young.
3. You may be more financially stable than in your teens, but you've just got used to having your own money to spend on yourself, and now it's going on a baby. Parenting requires a lot of selflessness.

Your 30s

The average age for becoming a mum in the UK has risen from 27 to almost 30 in two decades. In fact, more women now give birth in the 30-34 age group than in the 25-29 age group.

Pros

1. You're more mature and ready to make the sacrifices required to become a mum.
2. Your finances are generally more stable and you'll therefore be more likely to be able to cope with a break from work.
3. Studies show that women who wait until their 30s actually enjoy better health, live longer and end up having healthier babies.

Cons

1. You could find it more difficult to get pregnant than you would have if you'd conceived earlier. At 35, you are half as fertile as you were at 25, which means it can take much longer for you to get pregnant in your late 30s.
2. Statistically, you have an increased risk of miscarriage. Genetic disorders such as Downs syndrome also become more likely with later pregnancies.
3. The physical demands of pregnancy and caring for a newborn baby - especially sleepless nights - may be harder for you to deal with.

Your 40s

The number of women giving birth in their 40s has increased by 50% in the last decade.

Pros

1. You are older, wiser and ready to devote yourself to motherhood.
2. You are financially stable.
3. Your working life is more likely to be settled and secure and you will find it easier to take a maternity break .

Cons

1. Your fertility is in decline as you age. You may have to undergo IVF or other fertility treatments which can be expensive, unpredictable and physically and emotionally draining.
2. You're more likely to suffer complications in pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia, and are more at risk of needing a Caesarean or forceps delivery.
3. The risk of having a baby with Downs syndrome is about 1 in 28 for a mother who is 45.
4. You may have less energy to cope with your new arrival. Without help, you could find yourself exceptionally worn out!

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What age did you conceive your baby? And would you have had them earlier or later if you could decide now? Leave us a comment and let us know your thoughts.

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