If you are already nearing your fourth decade of life and you haven’t got kids yet, chances are you’ve already experienced being the center of attention during Thanksgiving gatherings with family members and friends prodding you to hurry up. If you are still in your teens and you already have a kid, people will also be looking down on you with such disdain for your perceived lack of self-control. If you get pregnant in your late 30s, people have always something to say. If you get pregnant even before you reach your 2nd decade, people also have a lot to say. So, what is the best age to have kids?
Egg Cells, Pregnancy, and the Female Body
Before we can answer this particular question, it is important to understand the physiology of pregnancy.
Pregnancy occurs when the sperm cell from a man is able to fertilize an egg cell from the woman. Nature designed the process in such a way that half of the genes carried by dad and half of the genes carried by mom will combine to form the genetic information that will create a human being. As such, the two most important elements here are the egg cells and the sperm cells. Of course there are other factors that can come into play, but these two are essentially it. One without the other simply cannot produce a baby.
Here’s the twist of irony. While men are capable of producing an infinite number of sperm cells throughout their lifespan, women don’t have this luxury. Scientists say that a baby girl will typically have around 1 to 2 million egg cells that are still immature. However, by the time your young girl has her first menstruation around puberty, these millions of immature eggs will only number around 300,000 to 400,000 because most will already be lost to what experts call ovarian follicle atresia. Now, from the time of her first menstruation until the time of her last menstruation or menopause, a woman will only be left with around 300 to 400 mature ovarian follicles, again because of follicle atresia. Each month during a woman’s reproductive age, she will be releasing only one of these mature egg cells which, if it meets a sperm cell and gets fertilized by it, conception ensues.
Another sad part to this story is that women cannot produce new eggs. You are already born with all the egg cells that you will ever need. The number of egg cells you are left with by the time you reach puberty is what you will be essentially working with to get pregnant. And get this. These are cells. And as you grow old, they grow old as well. Their functioning and integrity as cells may no longer be as efficient as when they were still young and at their prime. Just compare the skin between a 20-year old lady and a 40-year old woman. Which one looks and feels healthier? The same is true with egg cells.
What Science Says
Basing on the logic of what we have been discussing so far, the best age to get pregnant and have kids is between 23 and 31. For human physiologists, this is considered as the most fertile years of any woman. It is a period where all the normal physiologic parameters of pregnancy are at their optimum. They are menstruating on a more regular basis which simply means that they are also ovulating on more regular manner. In fact, they have a greater likelihood of getting pregnant after a night of unprotected sex during this stage than during any other life stage. Additionally, most women of this age still don’t have some of the health risks of later pregnancies such as hypertension and diabetes which can complicate the process of both child-bearing and childbirth, unless of course they were born with such conditions.
Getting Pregnant is Not All about Physiology
While it is true that the best biological age to have kids is in your 20s, today’s woman is often faced with a variety of concerns. One particular aspect that prospective moms have to think about is if they are already prepared mentally, emotionally, and socially, and sometimes even economically, to have kids. These are considerations that, unfortunately, do not have any definite age recommendations. For example, most of the women who get pregnant in their late 30s say they were not yet prepared to handle the full-time requirements of being a mom.
Pregnancy is just the beginning of a lifetime of commitment to another person other than your partner. Imagine, you will be carrying your baby for a good 9 months inside your womb. There will be a lot of prenatal checkups as well as dietary modifications especially during the critical first 3 months of pregnancy where your baby’s organs are forming. Stress is your main concern.
Then, you will be giving birth and have to take care of him or her during the first 2 to 3 years of his or her life. This is crucial as babies require the mother-infant bond that makes them feel loved and cared for. They will need your undivided attention. Of course, you will also be learning a lot about becoming a good mom.
Raising kids is not easy either. For many, having kids means changing your priorities. No more late night partying. No more reckless behaviors. Sometimes, you may have to change careers for the simple fact that your current one doesn’t allow you to care for your baby full-time. Your focus now will be on your young child.
The Bottom Line
The more important question, therefore, is not really about the best age to have kids but rather your readiness to have children. While the best indicator of pregnancy readiness is your biological or physical maturity, emotional and psychological readiness cannot simply be disregarded. So, answering the question, when is the best age to have kids, we’d say when it comes. You will just have to face it like any other mom would.
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