Yay, everybody! A new study came out that confirms we’re not crazy for putting off childbearing until our thirties. So next time someone asks you the dreaded, “when are you having kids” question – tell them that you will be living longer because you decided to put off child-bearing, thank you very much.
There are many factors that define what the “best” age for having children is. According to John Mirowsky, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, if you are referring to the biological best age to bear a child, the answer is the late teens to early twenties. This is when your eggs are freshest and your body bounces back easiest. But the sociological implications of having a baby that early are not great. At this age Mirowsky believes pregnancy is “more likely to happen out of wedlock, more likely to interfere with educational attainment, and more likely to crystallize a disadvantaged status.”
If you define “best” as best chance of health for the infant, the optimum age inches up to 26. This is apparently the age when the least birth defects are reported. If you are speaking to infant mortality, optimum age bumps up even more. A study based on national data pinned the optimum age for conceiving a child at 32.
But if you are defining the “best” age in terms of longest life expectancy of the mother, the optimum age is even older. Psychology Today reports:
Mirowsky conducted interviews with 1,890 mothers, asking about their current health, including chronic illnesses, mobility problems, and self-assessments of malaise and other problems. Then he looked at mortality data, made some adjustments for educational attainment, and concluded that the overall “best age” for a first child, in terms of long-term health and mortality for the mother, was 34. Social pressure that delays the beginning of parenthood, he wrote, “greatly outweighs the biodevelopmental advantages of youthful organs.”
For twentysomethings thinking about how to time their schooling, career advancement, and family building, he offered this advice: they can “reasonably expect optimal health outcomes from delaying motherhood into their thirties.”
It’s kind of perfect that the best age for childbearing for the mother is the oldest of all. I mean, people are always accusing women who put their careers first as being selfish, right? Well, it turns out we’ve found the fountain of youth – so suck it! Mirowsky told the Daily Mail, “A woman who had her first child at 34 is likely to be, in health terms, 14 years younger than a woman who gave birth at 18.”
Biological clock be damned! Your body may bounce back better, but I get to age like Sophia Loren. I think that’s fair.