Have you delayed having children until your late 20s or in your 30s? Don’t worry – putting off motherhood until then may be good for your health in later life.
A recent study by researchers at Ohio State University found that women who delay motherhood until after 25 are likely to have better health by the time they reach 40, compared to women who gave birth between the ages of 15 and 24.
But there was no significant difference in midlife health for those with teen births compared to those who waited until they were 20 to 24.
Study author Kristi Williams, an associate professor of sociology at the university, investigated how birth age really affects health.
“A strictly biological model would suggest that early childbearing is better for the organism,” Kristi says. “Really it’s a more socioeconomic or sociological model which would suggest the opposite hypothesis.”
The study found childbirth can prevent women from finishing university or pursuing a dream job, suggesting that having a baby a bit later is better because their careers are more established.
“Both of those things – having a well-paying job and a high level of education – are associated with better health,” Kristi tells Fit Pregnancy. “We’re only looking at one outcome. We’re looking at the mother’s health and what we’re finding is that if there are any risks of delaying, they’re outweighed by the benefits.”
Kristi says we should be concerned that the findings show women who are having births in their early 20s may face more health challenges as they reach middle age than those who wait longer.
But she says that the optimal age to become a mum is different for everyone.
“No individual woman should look at these results and use this study as a source of information about when she should have her child,” Kristi explains.
“I think there’s a tendency to look at these studies and think ‘oh, I should use this when I’m trying to decide when to have my first child’ and I would urge caution in that,” she says. “Rather than really sticking to what any individual woman should do, our results indicate that we as a society should really think about how we provide resources to women so that they can maximise their wellbeing and that of their children no matter when they have them.”
The study used data from 3348 women in the US who participated in the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979 and who were interviewed every one or two years from 1979 through 2008. All the women had a first birth between the ages of 15 and 35. They all rated their own health at age 40 on a scale from poor to excellent.
(via Fit Pregnancy)