September 23, 2019

Too Old to Have Kids?

I’m obsessed with the television show Teen Mom and the five sixteen year olds that MTV has followed over several seasons. Watching the show is an excellent example of not only why we should have abundant, low-cost and available birth control everywhere, but also why sixteen is too young to have kids. So how OLD is too OLD to have kids?

Like many people, I was stunned to see a recent cover of New York magazine with a naked, albeit Photoshopped, grandma-looking pregnant woman. In their article “Parents of a Certain Age” NYMag asked the question, “Is there anything wrong with being 53 and pregnant?” Most readers agreed: YES! Including one reader who was so repulsed he threw the entire magazine in the garbage without reading a single word.

“The age of first motherhood is rising all over the West. In Italy, Germany, and Great Britain, it’s 30. In the U.S., it’s gone up to 25 from 21 since 1970, and in New York State, it’s even higher, at 27. But among the extremely middle-aged, births aren’t just inching up. They are booming. In 2008, the most recent year for which detailed data are available, about 8,000 babies were born to women 45 or older, more than double the number in 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Five hundred and forty-one of these were born to women age 50 or older—a 375 percent increase. In adoption, the story is the same. Nearly a quarter of adopted children in the U.S. have parents more than 45 years older than they are.”

It seems logical that as the average age of the world population continues to rise the age of first time parents will also rise:

“Among the countries currently classified by the United Nations as more developed (with a total population of 1.2 billion in 2005), the overall median age rose from 29.0 in 1950 to 37.3 in 2000, and is forecast to rise to 45.5 by 2050.” (Wikipedia)

So why is there a trend of older parents? Couples are getting married later, and it’s taking longer for wannabe parents to feel financially stable to provide for children. Also, we live in a world where it is possible to have children at a later age through advances in science and medicine. But just because we can reverse menopause and make moms and dads out of senior citizens does it mean that we should?

As a woman on the cusp of forty, I am relieved that I have almost aged out of my fertile years. People ask when I am having kids less and less. My joints are starting to creak and my short-term memory stinks. I am aging, and as my body changes I can understand why it would be difficult to have a baby later in life. I respect that it is a parent’s choice to have kids or not, but I do feel uncomfortable about the risks associated with older parents on both parents and their children.

From the article:

“After 40, a pregnant woman is likelier to become afflicted with preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, and hypertension—the worst outcomes of which can result in the death of the fetus and occasionally the mother as well. It is also after 40 that the risk of having a child with autism increases—by 30 percent for mothers and 50 percent for fathers, says Lisa Croen, a senior scientist at Kaiser Permanente. Advanced paternal age is likewise associated with miscarriage, childhood cancer, autoimmune disease, and schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders.”

My grandfather once told me that the most embarrassing day of his life was his high school graduation. His forty something year-old mother sat in the audience with her white hair piled high in a bun and a bun in her oven, she was eight months pregnant. So maybe I have good genes and maybe I have science on my side. For me, still, maybe does not equal baby.

WNKies: Can you be too old to have kids?

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