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There is no doubt among scientists that natural fertility decreases progressively throughout life.
But despite the warnings of the experts, in western societies the birth rate is increasingly delayed, in the case of women until the middle or the end of the thirties, precisely when fertility decreases more rapidly.
In countries like the UK now for the first time more than 50% of babies born are women over 30 years. And women over 35 who have children are already more numerous than those under 25.
This trend is compounded by several recent studies that indicate that men’s fertility also decreases after age 35 and that as the age of fathers increases there is a greater chance of having babies with problems.
But forming a family does not only have to do with biological suitability: social and economic factors also play an important role.
Five experts in different subjects were asked the same question: what is the best age to start a family? These are his answers from fields such as biology, sociology, family planning and gender differences.
- A biological perspective
Sarah Matthews, consultant gynecology at the Hospital Portland London and expert on fertility.
“From a biological perspective, according to all the research the best age to have the lowest risk of complications in pregnancy and postpartum is between 25 and 29 years. “
Matthews says there’s a lot of lack of information about fertility. Schools that offer sex education, the expert believes, tend to focus on preventing pregnancy, and that is why many young people, men and women, enter adulthood without having an education about fertility.
In that context, some women leave it until too late.
“At least twice a year I receive women of 48 or 49 years old who come to the clinic very excited with a new partner, but since their periods have been a little irregular they want to investigate what happens and they are totally shocked when I tell them that They are going through menopause and they will not be able to have children anymore. ”
“In vitro fertility treatments can increase the chances of conceiving, but they cannot turn back the clock,” he told.
2. A social perspective
Melinda Mills, expert in sociology at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom.
“I agree with the figure of the biological perspective, but from a social and demographic perspective what we have seen in several studies is that when couples delay the formation of a family, for each year that they postpone it they have an average increase of income of 10%, and that people notice. ”
“So I would say that the best age would be 30 years or a little more.”
But Mills clarifies that postponing motherhood is not just a matter for women, as is usually presented in the media.
The sociologist says that the idea is usually projected that it is a decision that they take to focus on their education or careers. But it is important to pay attention to the fact that infertility is a couple issue, resulting from a decision and a delay in fatherhood in which men also participate.
On the other hand, she mentions, there are certain advantages in leaving it for later: there are studies that found that the children of older women obtain better educational levels and greater cognitive development.
But when you unravel the motives, says Mills, it does not have as much to do with age as with the socioeconomic positioning of families: older parents tend to have greater stability in their jobs, in their homes, in their partners, and in general they have different educational styles with the children because of their experience.
- A gender perspective
Sophia Walker, leader of the Women’s Equality Party of the United Kingdom.
“I think that there is never a good time to have children because as a society we do not value the care of other people or the people who take care of others, we do not value it at 20, 30 or 40. ”
“For women there are structural barriers that make having children a very difficult decision,” said Walker, who is a mother, “I thought I had many options and then I had children and found out that it was not like that, everything became much worse. It was extraordinary, and none of the men I work with seem to experience paternity in the same way. ”
Walker notes that the cost of day care, the gender pay gap and the impact on mothers’ careers due to the lack of flexibility to share work absences for child care are important factors that have a great impact on the decision of whether to have a child or not.
And he says that while these problems are not resolved in an equal way, the issue of birthrate will continue to affect the economy of the countries and the situation of women.
- A demographic perspective
Heather Joshi, expert in economic and development demography at the University of London.
“I would hesitate a lot before saying that there is an ideal age, I think the best answer is ‘when you are ready'”.
“I do not think there are many women under 20 who are as ready as 30. But women in their thirties face another biological issue, which is that conceiving becomes more difficult as you put it off,” he says..
On the other hand, Joshi points out that young couples often do not talk in detail about their intentions to start a family in the first phase of the relationship, in their twenties, or in their first dates.
And often they discover over time that they have different expectations, something that can delay the birth rate.
- A family planning perspective
Adam Balen, Leeds reproductive medicine expert and director of the British Fertility Society.
“Natural fertility deteriorates with age in both women and men, although in the case of men it does not usually stand out that much, but it is clear that the most profound effect of age is on women, who are born with a determined number of ovules, which are lost throughout life.
It is difficult to specify at what age fertility begins to deteriorate more quickly and obviously there are also genetic factors involved. ”
Regarding the essential question that many people ask themselves about which is the best age to start trying to start a family, the interesting thing is that normally people do not say to have only one child, but to make a family.
In the last year, interesting statistics have been published on this topic: a Dutch study concluded that if a woman wants to have a 90% chance of having a family of three children, she has to start trying it at 23 years of age.
If you want two children, you should start around 27, but if you only want one, you can start trying at 32.