Is my 7 year plan for quiet married life posing a risk to my 10 year plan for having kids?
July 23, 2010 12:04 PM   Subscribe

I want to wait until I'm at least 35 to have a baby. But answers on Ask.Metafilter like this and information like this make me really really scared I'll be messing up my chances of having a healthy family. How paranoid am I?

Okay, first: I know I can (or could) get pregnant, because I had an abortion when I was 7 weeks along at age 22 (condom broke, wasn't on birth control, was a poor college student with few options). My mother never had trouble getting pregnant, even when she remarried at 38 and had my brother a year later. She had one miscarriage when she was around 30, I think. My aunt had some fertility issues, however, and it took her many years to have two healthy children. As far as I know she didn't use IVF, though. My husband and I got genetics testing before we married and were cleared of any shared traits that might pose a problem.

I very much want to be a mother, and I know my husband wants to be a father. We both live in New York City, where most women consider my age, 28, a little early to have kids, so it's easy to not feel as culturally pressured to pop out a brood in my twenties. We just got married a few months ago and we're very much enjoying the quiet of married life and don't really want to add another person to the mix yet!

There are two others reasons I want to wait. First, I've seen how much children have changed my friends' lives. We no longer see them much at all, and when we do, all they talk about is diapers and spit-up. My female friends openly lament their dwindling sex lives, sleep deprivation, and how they feel like they devolved from interesting, aware individuals into parents who slave and worry about their babies. I absolutely recognize that this is normal, especially when someone has a tiny baby, and I know I'll probably be just like this when I'm a mother. I also know it's possible to be a mother and also read the newspaper. But I don't want to feel that identity crisis just yet. Also, I just started my own business, so career-wise it would be really stressful if I had to take off time for pregnancy and maternity leave.

I know parenting is so, so much more than spit-up and tantrums, but I want to enjoy my independence and married life for several more years before my husband and I forgo traveling, going out for drinks, and worrying about public school rankings. I think I would be a better mother if I was psychologically ready to make many sacrifices for a kid's well-being.

The reason I am worried is that many of my older friends in the city are trying to start families after 35 and having many difficulties. One friend has gone through two rounds of IVF treatments with no success, and another has miscarried three times when she tried to conceive at 39.

Right now, I'm spooked either way! If I have kids at 28, I'm pretty sure I won't have any more difficulty conceiving a healthy baby than any other woman, but I don't think I'm ready to commit to a child. If I start around 35+, I worry that I'm slipping down the same slope as many of my friends.

Am I letting a couple anecdotes about infertility spook me? How conscious should I be of my body's ability to have children in regards to my age? I'm not (yet) scared enough to actually think about getting pregnant right now, but it's a nagging fear in the back of my head. Is it valid?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (49 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
The thing is, you just never, ever know what your personal experience with getting pregnant and being pregnant will be like until it happens. I tried getting pregnant at 35. It took a grand total of two months to become pregnant, and I had a healthy pregnancy and delivered a healthy child. I have friends who started younger and older. Some had no trouble. Some had terrible trouble. Some were never able to make it happen even with fertility treatments and had to turn to adoption. I also have a cousin whose healthy pregnancy at age 30 ended up with the baby dying in the hospital and her almost dying, too. My point being -- there is absolutely no way to know what your experience will be until you do it. And you should do it when you want to do it. So wait for now. Maybe don't wait all the way till 35. But hold off for a few years if you're not ready now.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:13 PM on July 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

I think it's really an individual thing. Any statistics are just numbers. If you've already successfully conceived, that's good to knowledge to have.

One thing that I'd consider is that as consequences of waiting till you're 35 to conceive, you're going to be putting a child through college in your mid 50s, and conceivably not having grandchildren until your early 70s.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:16 PM on July 23, 2010

How about an anecdote in the other direction? My mom had me when she was 32. My brother when she was 35. We were both super healthy babies.

I don't intend to even think about having kids until my 30s. The way I see it, medical science is improving all the time. Even if fertility problems should come into play, my doctors will be better equipped to handle it several years down the line than they are now.
posted by phunniemee at 12:17 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's a valid fear, but every woman is different. I doubt you have anything to worry about at all until at least your early 30s though, unless there's a fertility issue that's not age-related. But I know one woman who got pregnant by mistake at 38, and one who got pregnant on her first try at 38. On the other hand, I am only 34 and have rapidly declining fertility for which there is no good reason but bad luck.

If it were me, I would wait until I was about 32, and if I still wasn't ready for kids I'd go to a reproductive endocrinologist (if covered by insurance) and get all of the fertility testing done to see where I stand. That's what I did and how I learned that I have an abnormally high level of a hormone that rises as you approach menopause (which means I'm running out of baby-making time). You may also want to check out the book Taking Charge of Your Fertility.
posted by amro at 12:17 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

You may find, in the next several years, that there comes a point before age 35 where you say, "You know, I have really enjoyed our independence and being a family of two, but I think I am ready to be a family of three." (or more) Knowing you're not ready now isn't the same as knowing you won't be ready until 35. My husband and I had no clear plan other than, "no, not yet," and enjoyed our duplo-hood for a while before realizing, around 30, that it was time to enlarge our family. And the realization came on pretty suddenly; we just both realized it was that time.

(And there's no such thing as the PERFECT time to have kids ... if you know you want them and you feel it's like 80% the perfect time, that's as perfect as it's going to get.)

You should be conscious of your fertility -- and discuss it with your girlie doctor -- but you're also quite right that you need to be ready to have kids to be a good parent. And there's more to it than just having healthy kids; older and younger parents have different advantages. Younger parents have more energy, more ability to get up 8 zillion times in the night, and they get the kids out of the house while the parents are still fairly young. Older parents have more material resources, generally, and a more settled homelife.

But fertility is a valid concern and one you should discuss with your doctor. I have known a few women who put childbearing off for whatever reason (career, relationship, the idea that they had plenty of time later), for whom the putting-off did not work out. I have known many women who had healthy babies after 35 (even after 40). You simply don't know which you'll be.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 12:20 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Agreeing with BlahLaLa, there's no way to predict what will happen with your body. My great aunt and uncle tried for 20+ years to have children, and had given up when all of a sudden, at age 45, she got pregnant and had my mother's cousin. Who has always been healthy in every way.
posted by Melismata at 12:20 PM on July 23, 2010

Your chances of having a baby go down after 35, there's no denying it. But they don't disappear. It just gets increasingly difficult. We had a baby at 40.

Bear in mind that as your kids get older, they get more interesting to be around. Right now your friends are talking about spit-up. In seven years they'll be talking about soccer. In fourteen years they'll be talking about college applications. You have to get through the spit-up period to get to the human-being-worth-talking-to period.

Bear in mind, too, that life can get in the way. What happens if you wait till 35 to go off birth control, and your marriage breaks up? What if it takes a couple years after that to meet your second husband?

I wouldn't be in a hurry to have a baby at 28. But definitely think about starting your family before 35.
posted by musofire at 12:21 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know there is serious science speaking to declining fertility in women after 25 or whatever, but I am going to be honest, I also think the reason this narrative is popular is that people enjoy making women feel like they're doing it wrong when it comes to childbearing and -rearing (which are the only things women are supposed to do. Obviously.)

You get pregnant at 19? Inappropriate and selfish.

You have a third child? Inappropriate and selfish.

You only have one child? Inappropriate and selfish.

You don't intend to have children at all? Inappropriate and selfish.

You're 37 and you and your partner have decided to start trying for your first baby? Inappropriate - also God is going to strike you down for being terrible and selfish and waiting until you were OLD and focusing on "your career" - and if you have trouble conceiving there will be societal smugness.

Bear in mind that you are more likely to hear stories from and about slightly older people who had trouble conceiving - or at least those stories will stick out to you more, and feel the anxiety. (I know a handful of women who had heard so many of these stories that they were wildly startled when they got pregnant immediately.)

There are no guarantees with anything to do with babies. It's kind of a mindfuck. So I say - follow your gut. Do the things you want to do before you try to get pregnant. If you have an easy time getting pregnant, great, having done things you wanted to do first might help you be a better parent. If you have a less-easy time - you know, there are no guarantees that you are wildly fertile right now. So you might as well do the stuff you want to do anyway.

You just can't know.

PS - this kind of thing always makes me think of a Tina Fey joke about people being disapproving that she waited to get pregnant, something like "Yes! I should have gotten pregnant when I was 24, living over a biker bar, and pulling down a cool 8k a year."
posted by thehmsbeagle at 12:23 PM on July 23, 2010 [64 favorites]

What happens if you wait till 35 to go off birth control, and your marriage breaks up? What if it takes a couple years after that to meet your second husband?

That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. She and her husband should have the kid sooner in case they get a divorce later?
posted by amro at 12:24 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Am I letting a couple anecdotes about infertility spook me?

My wife had a healthy, awesome baby at age 42; he was conceived about six minutes after we decided to start trying.

You just never know.

I would recommend not having a baby until you're about 98% sure you're ready.
posted by bondcliff at 12:25 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I think that the only one that can provide you with some peace of mind is a good OB/GYN. I believe (through a friend's experience) that they can run tests to determine your current fertility. I think that it has something to do with determining your ovarian reserve. I'm not sure if they can extrapolate your future odds of conceiving at 35 or after, from those results but it's a starting point. Perhaps you could have that kind of testing done yearly at your annual OB/GYN appointment and adjust your plans accordingly if the results change?

Otherwise you're just going to get a lot of people chiming in about how many people they know who've had healthy babies after 35. It's reassuring, but it doesn't really tell you if you'll be able to get pregnant. But if that's the kind of data point that you're looking for, my Mom was 42 when she had me (and she was so not trying that she initially thought she had gone into an early menopause) and I have a few friends in their late 30s who've recently gotten pregnant or given birth to healthy babies (without any medical intervention to my knowledge).
posted by kaybdc at 12:25 PM on July 23, 2010

Oh my goodness! I'm sorry if I scared you in that other thread. IANAD, not even close, but that's just a well-known problem some women have. Other women don't have it at all. I really apologize for scaring you. I'm in the same boat with you. I can't imagine have kids right now (I'm 26), and I don't even know if I want to in 5 years. But someday I'd like to!

Here's a great story about a couple who are going to make sure they can have a kid when they're ready. If you have the resources, it's not a bad idea. "Insurance", I believe they called it.
posted by two lights above the sea at 12:26 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not a mom and probably will never be, but I think having a kid might be easier the younger you are. Some other AskMe thread recommended that pregnancy is easier on your body when you're younger. It will probably be easier on you career-wise too, since you'll have more energy.
posted by anniecat at 12:27 PM on July 23, 2010

You question is kind of vague. Here's a Scientific American article about when women's fertility declines.

We both live in New York City, where most women consider my age, 28, a little early to have kids,

I think this is probably not true at all and reflects a subculture and not the majority of women in New York. The average age of mothers having their first child in New York State in 2006 was 26.8.
posted by Jahaza at 12:29 PM on July 23, 2010

Agree that you just never know. Also agree that you might change your mind between now and 35 -- I suddenly knew it was the right time when I was 30.

Also, please don't believe that babies always mean huge horrible changes to the fun parts of your life. Yes, you'll be tired. Yes, you'll talk about how cute and adorable your kid is and how much poop they produce. But you can still go out to dinner, go on vacation, have sex, have fun. Have MORE fun, even. If you're the kind of person who is prone to worrying and slaving, you might have those problems, but hey, we don't. That isn't to say it doesn't change your life; just that it doesn't have to change it in the way you mention above.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:30 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is there a reason you have to decide on a seven-year timeframe now? Couldn't you simply choose to set the issue aside for, say, a year or two, and then revisit? Also, if you're concerned about how statistics relate to your actual, individual body--have you discussed this with your gynecologist?
posted by Meg_Murry at 12:30 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

If you're not using hormonal birth control (or would be willing to go off it), I would suggest that you consider Taking Charge of Your Fertility so that you can become familiar with your body's own particular cycle (e.g., you can learn if you ovulate early or late in your cycle),w hich will help you perceive subtle changes that will be going on as you move into your 30s that may affect your fertility more generally (e.g., you can observe if your cervical mucus is changing from most-fertile to less-fertile quality).

All of this won't be a guarantee of anything, but it will at least remove a portion of the guesswork from the question. As mentioned upthread, I would also see your OB/GYN and discuss it with them, too.

Ultimately, though: don't let yourself panic about it. Off all the women I know who have kids, I'd bet easily half of them (if not more) had their children from age 35 and up.
posted by scody at 12:31 PM on July 23, 2010

Statistically, if you choose to try to conceive, it simply takes longer as you get older. People think it's less likely, but it isn't - it's just less likely in a given cycle:

"If you are between the ages of 35 and 40 you have a one in six to seven chances of becoming pregnant with the conception rate dropping with each year closer to age 40. It could take you up to seven months, barring you and your partner are in optimum health, to conceive." [Source]

You should plan your family for when it's best for your family. You may not have the luxury of "oh, we'll get pregnant in March so we can have a Christmas baby" planning, you may want to up the odds by charting and you'll want to give yourselves a good amount of time, but you should feel optimistic about conceiving without intervention.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:32 PM on July 23, 2010

Most of the advice you've gotten in this thread so far is terrible. It's true that everyone is different, but the statistics are real.

Is there same reason that the only two options are 28 and 35? Could you start at, say, 31? Looking at the linked chart, 35 is getting into the 50% zone. What if you want to have more than one kid? How many years do you want between kids?

How unhappy will you be if you are unable to have our own biological children?

You should talk to a good ob/gyn about this and a make a balanced decision.
posted by alms at 12:36 PM on July 23, 2010 [8 favorites]

You may also find at 35 that you don't want children after all, or your husband doesn't. New York is expensive, and adding children to the equation often means moving out of the city. People change.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:37 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Alms is right. You can't ask us what your chances for having a baby will be. You should go see a GYN and figure out the state of your reproductive health and your husband's sperm count and all that stuff.
posted by anniecat at 12:40 PM on July 23, 2010

One other thing to think about is whether you want your kids to be the approximate age of your friends' children, your kids' cousins, etc. Those friends who now are going through no sleeping, diapers, etc., will be seven years ahead of you forever. There will come a day when they are free of strollers and naptimes and want more to do things you won't be able to do. If you are especially close to them, it can be more fun to go out, be on vacation, and spend holidays with families whose kids are close in age.
posted by Sukey Says at 12:44 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

You may want to consider that the rate of birth defects also rises sharply after age 35.
posted by SandiBeech at 12:46 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

No one individual's experience can be a guide here...some people will have problems and some wont, regardless of age. Overall, though, *everything* will be harder when you're older. It'll be harder to conceive, and if you have trouble you could be having your first kid in your 40's. You're at greater risk for complications. Your physical recovery will take longer. Your ability to simply deal with the sleep deprivation of new parenthood, the constant cold and flu symptoms, and later the energy level of small children will diminish. The main thing that might be easier is the financial aspect of it, but it's not going to get easier to manage work and family time.

As for the whole "becoming a different person and losing your identity" You're such a fundamentally different person after kids that it's not worth worrying about. I mean, imagine having a conversation with high school you. Imagine what that kid would think about you as an adult. I'm sure that neither old nor young you would want to trade places with the other. Same thing with kids. You'll still be free to do what you want, but you'll want different things. As shallow as you think your parent friends' priorities are now, you will think your childless friends' priorities are even shallower. The only thing that stays the same is how judgmental you are!
posted by pjaust at 12:47 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

The spit up and sleep deprivation are not a one-way street. I stopped talking about spit up years ago. After the kids are asleep we have sex whenever. Newborns are a lot of work but that goes away so don't let that stop you. Have a baby in 2 years and by 35 you'll be sleeping through the night once again.
posted by GuyZero at 12:48 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hate to say it, but the statistics are real. Your own personal fertility may not be declining at the age of 35, but the fertility of human women does begin declining by age 35. Go to an OB or RE and ask them to do a checkup on you now, because there's a wide range of fertility, and you want to know where you stand now in order to be able to really make this decision.

Of my friends who waited until after age 33 to begin their families, they all say that they wished people had been more up-front with them about how much more difficult it can be. And that's not just conceiving a euploid baby; remember how much easier it was for you to pull an all-nighter at 19 than it is now? Yeeeeah, that trend doesn't actually reverse any. Being pregnant in my early (and now mid) thirties has given me new respect for the idea of being pregnant in one's early or mid twenties.

That having been said, pregnancy is not something to rush into out of fear. It's not something to delay until the perfect time, because there IS no perfect time, but don't make this decision in a panic. Go to a doctor. Find out how fertile you probably are right now. Make your decision with that information in mind.
posted by KathrynT at 12:50 PM on July 23, 2010

As a 28 year old non-parent who got married in September, I feel you. It doesn't help that my best friend who is my age has a four year old, my cousin who is younger has a one year old, and my friends who are older have kids. I just try to take comfort in the fact that it's not for me right now. It might be right for me at some point but not yet. Some of them also own houses and condos. That's not right for me right now either. It's okay. We're all different.

I've seen friends and colleagues deal with miscarriages. It sucks. But you can miscarry whenever. It's like how old people are more likely to break hips. That doesn't mean that young people can't possibly break hips, it just happens more often with old people.

I think you should ask yourself, what is it that you're most afraid of in this area? That it will take a long time for you to conceive? That you will never be able to have your own kids? If you're afraid that it will take a long time, plan ahead. If you're worried that you'll never be able to have your own kids, either come to terms with it or make a plan. If having a family is something that's important to you, you'll figure it out.

It took my mother maybe a year to get pregnant with my sister when she was 28. She went on to have four kids, including me and my other sister, and we were born 15 months apart.
posted by kat518 at 1:03 PM on July 23, 2010

Adding to the "35 maybe too late" anti-anecdotes... My mom had me when she was 40... and they weren't even trying. I was a "surprise!! condoms are not perfect" baby. My brother's wife was 31 when they had their first kid, and 36 when they had their third. Shortly after that they both had the tubes tied/cut.

What will happen will happen... I'd be more concerned about the destroying your life part of having kids. My brother had (and was indeed hoping for) 3 kids in 5 years, but he says constantly that his brain no longer operates and I hardly ever see him he is so busy with soccer, school, clubs, etc etc... and he STILL doesn't have enough time to spend with kids (he works from home too).

I love my brother and all his kids... but seeing how efficiently kids suck life from you first hand has made me swear off having kids. Given the tenacity of sperm in my family (especially the one that made me) I've also pretty much sworn off relationships as well... but that's another story.
posted by DetonatedManiac at 1:04 PM on July 23, 2010

I'm also reminded me of a line from my statistics textbook: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics." 100 percent of people with my first name, last name, and social security number are not ready to become parents. That is the most important statistic to me on this subject. And it sounds like it applies to you too.
posted by kat518 at 1:08 PM on July 23, 2010

My mother had me at 17, and my littlest sister at 36. We are both perfectly fine. My mom did have a lot more complications for her own health, and had to spend a lot of time in bed near the end, IIRC.
posted by nomisxid at 1:08 PM on July 23, 2010

The thing is, you just never, ever know what your personal experience with getting pregnant and being pregnant will be like until it happens.

Exactly. I got pregnant right off the bat aged 36.5. We were ready for six months of trying before even starting to get disappointed, but within 3 weeks I had a positive test in my hand!

By contrast, my sister started trying before she was 30 and after years of tests, eventually conceived via IVF. I have another friend who is in her early 30s and has suffered three miscarriages.

Alms is right that the statistics are real, but the point is that there is absolutely no way of predicting the future or knowing which group you might fall into. In my case it was a moot point because I did not meet my partner until I was almost 35 anyway, and was not interested in having a baby on my own.

I also agree with Meg_Murry that there's no need to decide on the exact time you want to have a child *right now*. If you're not quite ready yet, give it a year or two and then do some more serious thinking. The thing about life is, you can make all the plans you like, but there are never any guarantees. I think it's important to keep that in mind.
posted by rubbish bin night at 1:18 PM on July 23, 2010

I also think the reason this narrative is popular is that people enjoy making women feel like they're doing it wrong when it comes to childbearing and -rearing...

I would favorite hmsbeagle a million times for this if I could. I feel that I am in a much better place to be a mother now (over 35) than if I had done it earlier. You are right - it is nice to have time together as a couple and get established, if you can. I had my first child at 34. We have absolutely no problem getting pregnant - anecdata, I know. My family history (I'm talking great grandmother) is that the women got married and started having kids in their early 20s, but they kept having kids... into their 40s. I figure, I don't want all 12 kids they had, I just want the last 2.

Sure, fertility declines, but I don't think we know for sure how many women would still have had the same fertility problem if they had started trying in their 20s. It's not always because the woman is "older," but because of an individual health issue.

I also have a sneaking suspicion that the "pregnant over 35" demographic is a very lucrative market. We are women who can afford to buy special books and magazines aimed at us, and who are thought to lap up this kind of information.

More anecdata, but I've got probably a dozen friends my own age who are either pregnant or recently delivered. And double that for my over-35 friends who have had a baby in the last 2 years.
posted by Knowyournuts at 1:31 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

My sister her first child when she was 34 and her second child when she was 40. They are great kids and she is a great mom. The children were planned and she had NO trouble conceiving. She used an ovulation tester and got pregnant without really trying. My sister is a professional engineer. Yes, having children changed her priorities and her personality (just a bit).

On the other hand, I waited and then got really bad fibroids and other problems that led an inability to conceive and eventually to a hysterectomy. I don't know if I could have gotten pregnant when I was younger, since I never tried and never did. I didn't want to have children until I was 35. Knowing what I know now (that I would not have children), I still would not want to have had children before I was 35.
posted by fifilaru at 1:32 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

What happens if you wait till 35 to go off birth control, and your marriage breaks up? What if it takes a couple years after that to meet your second husband?

That doesn't make a lot of sense to me. She and her husband should have the kid sooner in case they get a divorce later?

I interpreted that to mean, "at least she got a kid in before the fertility window closed." As in, "well, get a baby in with husband #1 now and you won't be trying to still find a babydaddy at 37 and possibly miss the window."

Back to the actual question, shoot, you can still "afford" (most likely) to be a newlywed and not immediately have kids for another year or two. I'd suggest reconsidering every year after age 30 if you are ready to start yet, though, not just automatically say "we have to wait seven" (which seems a little arbitrary anyway). If you're freaked about it, try seeing a doctor now to see if there's any medical reasons why you must hurry up about it, or not.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:34 PM on July 23, 2010

The average age of mothers having their first child in New York State in 2006 was 26.8.

I think you need to realize that New York State and New York City are on different planets.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 1:38 PM on July 23, 2010 [11 favorites]

conceivably not having grandchildren until your early 70s.

I have to say this is the only thing that kind of bums me out about having waiting as long as I did. I had my first child at 39 and will have a second in a few months, at 42. It took a few months longer to get pregnant than I would have liked, but other than that I have had no problems getting or staying pregnant. Certainly a conversation with your GYN is in order, and your family history will likely have some influence in that regard.

The argument that it's better to have kids younger might have some merit; I know that my body will not bounce back from these pregnancies the same way it often does for younger women, but forty-year-old bodies have different maintenance needs than 25 year old ones anyway. And yes perhaps younger parents have more energy to deal with sleep deprivation, but we handled the first just fine, and sleep deprivation isn't fun at any age really, so again I don't give that a lot of weight.

Certainly I am in a better financial position to have children than I was in my twenties. More importantly, though, I think I am a better mother now that I likely would have been two decades ago. Experience and time have both matured and mellowed me, and I think that this is to everyone's benefit. In my twenties I was a lot more rigid, with less nuanced views about the world and certainly a lot less patience for other people. By that measure, waiting to have children until I did was certainly the right thing for both me and, I think, my children.
posted by ambrosia at 2:06 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yeah, like everyone else is saying, you just can't know whether conceiving will be easy or hard until you try. I started trying to conceive in January and expected it to take a year (I'm 35) but I got pregnant in February, which I'm pretty sure is the first time I ovulated. On the other hand, I have a friend who had major fertility issues and finally conceived via IVF at 37, and another friend who started trying two years ago, still isn't pregnant even though the reproductive endocrinologist can't find anything obviously wrong, and is about to have her 38th birthday.

I didn't feel like I was ready even at 35, but I knew the odds were getting slimmer so I decided I'd rather go for it and have a baby under less than ideal circumstances than risk not having one at all.

So I think the question you need to ask yourself is, which do you want MORE: a peaceful life for a while, or a baby? And like everyone else says, do you really need another 7 years, or can you re-evaluate in 2 or 3 or 4?
posted by rabbitrabbit at 2:06 PM on July 23, 2010

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is that there is a difference in risk for women who have a baby before 30, or before 35, and keep on having them until late in their fertility life; and women who have a FIRST child after 30, or 35, or 40. Great-grandma who started at 17 and popped them out until she was 44 is not a good example because of that. (My own mother had a healthy baby at nearly 39, but she's not a great example because she started before she was 30. It is a very different risk profile between my mom who was on child 4 at 39 and started before 30, and my good friend who is working on her first at 38. The statistics are simply very different.)

I do not know if an aborted pregnancy "counts" as a successful one or not -- which is another reason to have this discussion with your ob/gyn.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:38 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

The thing is, you just never, ever know what your personal experience with getting pregnant and being pregnant will be like until it happens.

Please don't take this as specifically a response to this particular comment, I'm just quoting it as representative of a lot of the answers.

It is definitely true that individual experiences vary greatly. Some people get pregnant very easily at 40. Some people can't become pregnant at 20. But I don't think that's a particularly helpful answer for the OP without the statistical context. It is like if someone said they were thinkg of seeing M. Night Shyamalan's THE LAST AIRBENDER and asked if it was considered a good movie... and the answers were predominantly along the lines of "well, I know some people who saw it and liked it so you never know". Despite it having an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes.

So, OP, it is absolutely the case that individual experiences vary. Maybe you'll have no trouble whatsoever conceiving and bearing a perfectly healthy baby at age 36. And there are plenty of factors to consider in when you should have children besides age. Only you and your husband can decide when the right time is. But I think it's a disservice to you not to be honest. So:

Yes, it becomes much more difficult to conceive as you age. The difficulty increases the older you get, with the rate accelerating as you pass 35. That's a statistical fact and you should take it into account in your planning. Additionally and at least as importantly, the rate of birth defects in the baby also starts greatly increasing as you age. You are hugely more likely to have a baby with Down Syndrome as you get older, for example. Roughly speaking the risk triples every 5 years. So 35 is three times as risky as 30. 40 is three times as risky as 35. And so on. And that's just one syndrome.

Like I said these are not the only factors to take into consideration. But you should know the risks when you decide and not just be handwaved off with "oh, you never know what could happen." And you should also talk to your doctor about the absolute risk and not just the relative risk. Yes, it's more risky, but more covers a very wide ground and genetic screening or whatever could ease your mind about a lot of issues.

atistically, if you choose to try to conceive, it simply takes longer as you get older. People think it's less likely, but it isn't - it's just less likely in a given cycle

Whoaaaa there. That's the same thing!

We're talking a statistical measurement here; if the likelihood of conception for each cycle decreases, the total likelihood of conception obviously decreases as well. The figures you're talking about are averages. What that means is that fertility is a Gaussian distribution (I presume) with the median falling well into the "fertile" range at, say, 22. As you get older, the distribution changes and shifts continuously towards less and less fertile. As that happens a greater and greater number of women will find themselves infertile, and even more will find conceiving very difficult.
posted by Justinian at 2:44 PM on July 23, 2010 [8 favorites]

Uh, that sounds a lot more THE SKY IS FALLING than I intended. It's not that bad! Maybe just average out my comment with the "oh, things will work themselves out" comments...
posted by Justinian at 2:46 PM on July 23, 2010

When I was 24, I developed a chronic medical issue which precludes me from ever bearing children. Before that, I was perfectly healthy, and my reproductive system still is. It's just that my body can't support a pregnancy and I'm on medications that would likely cause birth defects. Now, I do not wish I'd had children when I was 22, because my educational and career paths would have been drastically different and I like my life as it is. I've accepted that I'll have to look at nontraditional options to build my family.
Likewise, you shouldn't have babies now just because you know your body can handle it right now. You've got plans and desires and a career and plenty of reasons to wait. However, it's worth remembering that medical conditions can arise at any time that could prevent a woman from having a baby -- not just her declining fertility due to age. Don't assume that you'll automatically be able to have babies just because the reproductive organs are in working order. I vote for the re-evaluation in a couple of years, rather than committing at the outset to the seven year time frame.
posted by katemonster at 3:08 PM on July 23, 2010

You can totally wait. Nearly every one of my friends waited until their late 30s to have children and I don't think any of us regrets it. I was 40 when my daughter was born and totally cherish all the carousing and life-living I did before she was born. At my age now, I don't even care so much about going out all the time and being at the new cool places. And really, it's only about 2 years during which you're totally in the baby zone. After that it's all much much easier. Sure, you might have trouble getting pregnant and have a increased risk of various defects but modern medicine is a wonderful, amazing thing.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 4:52 PM on July 23, 2010

I t sounds like you have a good family history for waiting. Do ask your mother about when she started menopause though - if if was around age 35, you might want to take some steps right now to ensure that you can get pregnant when you want.

My mother had 4 kids between ages 20 and 40. I have my first at 32, two years after we married. I had two more, last at 36 (by a couple of days.) The first two were not issues for the doctor, the last sent me to a specialist because I was 35. Didn't seem to change anything.

I think that it is great that you are waiting until YOU are ready. You may be ready a couple of years before you think right now. Or not.

People asked me how my life had changed after I had our first. More joy, more love, feeling that I had done something that I was meant to do. Did I feel that I was missing out? No, we pretty much had given up going to concerts because of the smoke and late nights, and we really were happy meeting with a few friends now and then. We hardly ever get a sitter, except for emergencies and anniversaries. Both my husband and I are happy with this. We don't ship our kids off to grandparents every weekend to "have a break" from them like some of the much younger parents do. We are at a time in our lives when I can largely be home with the kids, so missed sleep is not as much as an issue for me. (And despite what the doctors said should be happening, none of my kids slept through the night until they were 2.)

If you are really concerned, see a specialist. Consider getting some eggs frozen for back up. But really, you are probably fine - depending on age of menopause for your mother.

wife of supermag445
posted by 445supermag at 6:10 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding alma and Justinian that the overall statistical patterns will be probably be more helpful than any given anecdotes. It's great that you're thinking about all this now, but I think you are probably overplanning a bit here. As others have said, I think planning to wait until 35 is risky, but maybe you could reconsider in a few years. Planning now to start at 35 doesn't mean you'll have a kid at might mean starting at 35 and having a kid at 40.

One other thing to think about is that I've found that parents often overreport what a pain in the ass kids are, and underreport how amazing parenting can be. I do think I live in a pretty antinatalist culture (U.S.) -- the rhetoric is sometimes pronatalist but the reality is pretty hostile to parents, both structurally and in people's day to day reactions to things. So talking about how much parenting sucks is a way for parents to be able to talk about what is (for many of us) the central fact of our existence, when conversing with non-parents or mixed audiences.

When it's your own kid and you truly love them, and you're raising them in a calm thoughtful way (as calm as parenting can be), it can really be a joy. Yes, I'm tired a lot (had my first at 35, am now 40) but talking to your kid, going out and exploring the world with them, watching them sleep, are all joyful and even blissful experiences for many, many people. So many of the worries I had before having a kid were so abstract and, after the kid actually arrived, seemed so overblown.

So I just wanted to provide that additional perspective, that you are hearing the worst about parenting and worrying about hypothetical problems, but the fact that you're even worrying and thinking it through shows you are being mindful and considerate and that, when you're ready, you'll be a great parent if you choose. I am much more together and patient than I would have been if I'd had my child earlier, I think, but then it was very very difficult for me to conceive at all. It's all a trade-off, and in the end, as others have suggested, you'll have to decide which is scarier to you, that you might have a less carefree life, have a detour/delay in your career, or lose your opportunity to become a mother.

Good luck to you. I'm sure you'll sort it all out.
posted by ravioli at 6:15 PM on July 23, 2010

Every year I go to the gyno. Every year she asks me if we're thinking of starting a family. The answer has always been no (and probably always will be in my case). And every year she says "well, if you ever plan to start trying, please call me first!" So I'd say, talk to your doctor. (I'm going to assume you see one yearly. If not, start immediately.) And if your gyno hasn't already asked you about your reproductive plans, that's maybe not a good thing.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 6:36 PM on July 23, 2010

If you have feelings about waiting, then wait. It'll matter much more in your life and your baby's life if you dive into parenthood with both feet than if you're anxiously poised at the dock.
posted by Wuggie Norple at 6:44 PM on July 23, 2010

One option to consider is to get embryos frozen now. You'll need to go through IVF procedures to get it done, which will cost you, but the advantages are as follows:
1) Many (not all) of the issues of delayed pregnancy are related to the age of the egg and the sperm - not the age of the mother. Thus, if you have embryos frozen now, and implanted in 7 years, they will be 28 year old's eggs instead of 35 year old's eggs, and fertilized with X year old's sperm instead of X+7 year old's sperm (yes, the age of the father is an issue for some genetic disorders and miscarriage risks).
2) You'll find out NOW if there are any issues with your husband's fertility - you don't specify if your earlier pregnancy was with your husband or not - which may require IVF anyway, and precludes the long, trying process of trying unsuccessfully, if that's the case.
3) You can generally have quite a few embryos frozen, and they'll all be the same vintage, so if you decide at, say 38, that you'd like a second child, you likely can, without the increased risks from even more advanced age.
4) As some have commented above, if you have the embryos frozen now, any risk of damage to ovaries, fallopian tubes or testes and vas deferens in the intervening 7 years are of less concern.
5) With frozen embryos, you can decide to implant at any time, before or after the current plan of 7 years. Obviously, there is no guarantee that any specific implantation will work, but the timeline is likely improved over the natural method.
6) Depending on you and whichever clinic you use, you can have 2 or more embryos implanted to attempt for twins, if you think - "it's time now - but two are better than one at this stage". (Just don't go all Octomom)

Of course, there are disadvantages:
1) Cost - the natural method is free. You'll require ovum extraction, possibly hyperstimulation (if you are attempting to get many embryos at one go), and then storage fees.
2) Pain - the natural method is fun - IVF isn't. If you go the hyperstimulation route, you're looking at painful injections, but even without, extraction is not painless.
3) Trying to figure out which clinic is going to be around in 7 years with no issues of loss or bankruptcy.
4) Potential inconvenience - if you move in the intervening time, you'll need to arrange to go back to wherever your chosen clinic is - or arrange for transport of the frozen embryos, and then finding a new clinic for the implantation.

IVF (at least to the stage of frozen embryos) can be a way to minimize the disadvantages of later pregnancy, adding some of the advantages of youthful fertilization.
posted by birdsquared at 8:05 PM on July 23, 2010

thehmsbeagle: "You get pregnant at 19? Inappropriate and selfish. You have a third child? Inappropriate and selfish. You only have one child? Inappropriate and selfish. You don't intend to have children at all? Inappropriate and selfish."

Oh yes. My mom had her tubes tied when I was born (mainly for financial reasons), and she was not even out of the hospital when she started getting calls from my dad's family. "Don't you like kids? You can't raise one kid alone!" People will judge no matter what you do.

As the child of a mother who was 37 when she had me... well, my mom had mostly gray hair by the time she hit 30, so I got a lot of teasing from the other kids that she was really my grandma. Not a really big deal now, but it was to me then. She has had bad arthritis since she was a teenager and she would tell you that as far as your energy levels and aches & pains, well, you're not getting any younger. Also, I am 30 now and she is 67. While there are friends my age and younger who have lost parents, I certainly do envy my friends whose moms will be around longer. Like my aunt who is a year younger than my mom and just lost her mother. Perhaps it's because my mom has sleep apnea and as a child I'd watch her stop breathing in her sleep all the time, but I've always been afraid of losing my mom, as long as I can remember. As an only child, I feel bad sometimes that my mom wistfully talks about grandchildren and I just have no desire for kids. I get asked all the time when I'm going to get married and have kids, or I get told "you might want to get while the gettin's good."

The bottom line? Do what's right for you.
posted by IndigoRain at 12:09 AM on July 24, 2010

These are facts:
Your fertility, and maybe his, decline with every passing year.
Your odds of having a pregnancy with Down Syndrome increase with every passing year.
After that, it's all anecdote-filter, and trying to understand what you really want.

I wish I'd had a child earlier than 32, because I'd be a lot younger and ready to have more fun when the child left the nest. Your friends with babies who complain? are also incredibly in love with those babies. I'm biased; I love babies and kids. Good luck with your choice.
posted by theora55 at 12:15 PM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]

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