Besides the fact that our younger bodies are more physically equipped to carry a baby and bounce back from pregnancy, and besides the fact that we have 90% more eggs than those who start in their mid-30s, we're also less likely to have pregnancy complications.
Remember that study I cited last week about women having far fewer eggs as they grow older? Well that study also mentioned that the smaller pool of eggs also has a much higher proportion of abnormal eggs. One of the bigger risks is Down syndrome, which steadily increases with age: 1 in 1,250 for 25-year-old women, 3 in 1,000 for 30-year-old women, 1 in 300 for 35-year-old women, and 1 in 35 for 45-year-old women.
Of course that's not to say that all older moms will have special needs children. It should be noted that I have a friend who recently had her first baby at 40 years old, and he's one of the cutest, calmest, most perfect babies I've ever known. And my friend looks like she's in her early 30s, takes incredible care of herself and is overall one of the coolest people ever. I also have an aunt who had her third child at 39 years old (12 years after her first baby), and my cousin is healthy and beautiful and smart. So let's not stereotype older moms as we feel we're stereotyped. But statistics are statistics, and it's fair to say that the odds are skewed in favor of the younger moms when it comes to birth abnormalities.
Not only that, but miscarriage rates rise with age as well, presumably because of chromosomal abnormalities. According to a (really interesting) post on Babble.com, 35 year olds are 50 percent more likely to have a miscarriage or still birth than 20-something pregnant women. By age 45, the rate jumps to 95 percent. Other complications that increase with women over 30 years old include high blood pressure, preeclampsia, preterm labor and diabetes.
That's not to say 20-something women aren't immune to miscarriages or special needs children. And that's not to say that it's dangerous to get pregnant over 35 years old -- especially with all of the infertility treatments, prenatal testing and medical technology today. But the risks are undeniably lower.
And so is the worry.