A few months ago I was at an unlikely place where I picked up a copy of The Atlantic and read an article called “How Long Can You Wait To Have a Baby?” The author was feeling deep anxiety about the ability to have children later I life. And who doesn’t with all the dismal statistics out there. However, as a researcher, she knew that scientific findings often differ from what the public hears about them. So she started digging.
Here is the Cliff Notes about what she discovered.
“The widely sited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the date: French birth records from 1670-1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 precent—was also caluculated based on historical populations.”
So basically millions of women are told that they can’t be pregnant after a certain age based on a study that was done before electricity and in a place where bathing is still upopular.
She found surprisingly few well designed studies of female age and natural fertility that were done in the 20th century. But the few she found showed that the difference in fertility between the age groups was pretty small.
- women 27-34 having sex at least twice/week – 84% chance of pregnancy within a year
- women 35-40 having sex at least twice/week – 72% chance of pregnancy within a year
In another study of women age 38 and 39, 80% of white women of normal weight got pregnant naturally within 6 months.
She gives many more examples of how statistics have been skewed or other factors that may have influenced the studies, such as war, length of marriage, culture, poverty, etc.
The point of her article was to encourage women not to buy into the baby panic. She is now the mother of two children born after age 35.
I don’t know why I am sharing this today. Maybe it is because I have a birthday in a few days. This article came in its time as an answer to an unsaid prayer or question. I was just facing my second divorce (husband sadly lost his mental health after just 3 months of marriage and ran away) at age 35. I haven’t felt baby hungry for a few years, but I do know there I have another one waiting, and I was beginning to wonder if baby #2 will ever make it to my family. Finding this article was God’s way of confirming to me that all will be well and I should just keep trusting.
I also share this because I am a lover of truth and I think that it is easy to be swayed by “scientific studies.” The real truth is that if a baby needs to come, it will come. If a woman is struggling with infertility, she should keep searching and trying to understand how the Lord will provide that child to their family. But the truth of it is, your age may have nothing to do with it.
It may be that even in ancient days, women were told they couldn’t conceive in old age. In fact, Sarah laughed when an angel told her she would conceive. But she did. So did Elizabeth, mother of John, the Baptist. My grandmother had babies into her 40s.
So don’t put off having a baby if you feel like it’s time, and don’t have one just because you are scared that you won’t be able to later. This is another reminder to me that personal revelation trumps all worldly knowledge, statistics, advances. Trust it. Follow Him.
What have been your experiences with age and fertility? What is the oldest mother you know?