What is the best age to have a baby?
How much of a role does your age play when it comes to being pregnant? We chat to four women about having babies in different decades of life.
By Jessica Jane Sammut
June 03 2016
Recent statistics show that more women are giving birth later in life than ever before, with the average age of new mums in Australia now 30.6 years. Almost a quarter of women are now giving birth over the age of 35, too, compared with just 10 per cent in 2000. But forget about the statistics, what about the experience? If you’re wondering what pregnancy’s like at different ages, read on.
Nicole fell pregnant with Brody, now 15 months, when she was 18 years old. Still in her teens, she has a second baby on the way
"I always knew I wanted to start a family young. I aspired to be a ‘fun mum’ who could really enjoy her kids, so when I discovered I was pregnant at 18 with Brody I was over the moon. He was a surprise baby and I probably wouldn’t have planned to fall pregnant that young, but my fiancé, Kyle, and I have no regrets and love being a young family.
People were shocked I was pregnant as a teenager, but family and friends were supportive. It was other people who weren’t so accepting. People would stare at my pregnant belly and whisper things behind my back. I sometimes got snide remarks from complete strangers too, especially from the older generation. At first this all got me down, but luckily I soon realised that no-one else’s opinion mattered and I wore my baby belly with pride! I also had some lovely experiences when I was out in public, with people telling me things like how wonderful it is to have children young.
I loved being pregnant at a young age because I had plenty of energy to burn. I worked five days a week in my job at a childcare centre for most of my pregnancy and towards the end cut down to three days a week, which I did right up until the day my waters broke at 36 weeks. My body handled the pregnancy with ease and I had no issues with it or the birth. I think my youth also helped me when Brody was out of my belly and in my arms. It was fairly easy to adjust because I didn’t have a strong routine in life yet and was able to flex around Brody’s schedule and needs without worry. I’m now pregnant with my second child at 19 and looking forward to doing it all again!
My advice for any other teenage mums would be to not allow any disapproving comments get you down. There’s always someone who is going to have a negative opinion on young mums and the best thing to do is to prove them wrong and show them what an amazing mum you can be!"
Meredith was 26 when she fell pregnant for the first time. She’s now mum to Andre, Leon, Joel, Beau, Carl, Evan, Theo and Zane, who range in age from 17 years to one month old.
I was married to my first husband when I was 23 and it felt natural to start a family soon afterwards. We both wanted to have a child within a few years of getting married and so we were delighted to fall pregnant with Andre. We had a wonderful response to our first pregnancy; it was expected we would start a family. In fact, the response to my first five pregnancies was positive. When we announced my sixth pregnancy, when I was 39, the response started to dwindle, and by the time I conceived my eighth boy, people seemed shocked.
Being pregnant in my 20s for the first time was fantastic. I loved being able to concentrate on myself and do everything I wanted. I joined mothers’ groups, travelled and maintained my sporting interests. As well as the time, I had the energy to do all this! At 26 I was very fit and while this was good in some respects for the pregnancy, it did mean that my stomach muscles were extremely tight. This caused them to ‘rip’ as my belly grew, which was hugely painful.
When Andre was born I bounced back into shape without much effort, too. The older I got with my pregnancies, the harder it became to get my body back. I’ve been pregnant in my 20s, 30s and 40s and have to say that being pregnant in my 20s was a really positive experience. It’s also great because I now have a teenage son by my side, which is wonderful.
Fiona was 34 years old when she conceived baby Madison, now 10 months.
I have to admit I was never particularly interested in being a mother. I was career-focused and although I enjoyed being around children, I couldn’t see myself having any of my own. In fact, I thought the most I might do in the future was foster. But three weeks after I got married, at 34, I fell pregnant. Eek!
My husband and I had been together for seven years before we were married and people who knew me well were amazed at the sudden pregnancy, as they were aware I didn’t want children. I soon realised, though, that I wanted to be the best mum I could be. We’d settled in our ‘forever’ home and I felt I was in the right place in my life to have a child.
I also knew I was going to do everything I could to grow the healthiest baby. I did my own research and this empowered me greatly. Being established in my career when I fell pregnant had its downsides. Working my two chiropractic clinics around my pregnancy and subsequent baby required some very acute juggling and in the end I had to close down one of my businesses. I’m now in the process of trying to build this back up.
I think having Madison in my 30s really helped me in welcoming her into my life, though. I felt like I had a lot of life experience behind me and was very calm and self-assured, which is something that’s been reflected in my parenting style.
Paola was 40 years old when she carried her first baby, Alexa, now four. She’s now also mum to Oskar, 22 months.
I met my husband late in life and married when I was 36 years old. We started trying immediately for a baby, but just didn’t fall pregnant. We discovered my husband was suffering from a male-related infertility problem, so we undertook IVF with donor sperm. Three years later, we had Alexa on the way. I was 40 then and we used the same donor when I was 42 to conceive Oskar.
Our friends and family were thrilled for us when we fell pregnant as they knew how long we’d been trying. It was lovely to be surrounded by all that love and knowing that I’d done all I wanted to do meant that I was so ready to carry a child and settle down. In my 20s I didn’t even know myself, so I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have a child and make such big changes in them.
While I know for some women in their 40s health problems and other issues can crop up in pregnancy, I felt healthy and young. I suspect having more energy would have been a plus, but I look after my health, inside and out, and was always active.
I really enjoyed my time as a first-time mummy in my 40s. Having life experience and the confidence to trust my instincts when it came to parenting enhanced my experience. My advice to other pregnant mums of my age would be to not worry about being an older mum. Just listen to your intuition and be honest with yourself about what you can accomplish in one day. Know that age is a number and your life experience will help, not hinder, you.