Best to become a mother between ages 20 and 35 /UK

London: The message that ages 20 to 35 are the best for a woman to have a child should be taught in schools alongside education about teenage pregnancies and contraception, the leader of the UK’s maternity doctors has said.

Dr Tony Falconer, the president of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), warned against the pronounced trend towards older motherhood and said women and couples have to become “better at resolving the conflict” between their careers and family plans.

Societal pressures

“It’s never our responsibility [as doctors] to tell people when they should have their family because there are all sorts of societal pressures,” he said.

But he added: “There’s no doubt that between 20 and 35 is the time to have your children. We are building up a difficulty for ourselves as a society by people’s expectations that they will wait until they are older. That’s a very complex issue, but it is a problem.”

His views on what he sees as the increasing problem of women waiting to have children could cause controversy. But Falconer said there is strong evidence that women who leave starting a family until they are 35 will have reduced fertility and so find it harder to conceive, even more so once they hit 40.

Complications

Older women are also more likely to face medical complications. They include a greater risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, multiple pregnancy, cancer, needing a caesarean or assisted delivery, foetal anomalies such as Down’s syndrome and even a heart attack in pregnancy.

“Reproductively, tragedies can result as a direct result of later motherhood,” said Falconer, citing the case of a 40-year-old woman who, carrying her first child, experiences a stillbirth. (The stillbirth rate is one in 200 across all ages, but higher for older women).

While younger would-be mothers can resolve to try again for another baby, the older woman may not be able to because she is less fertile, Falconer said.

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