What Are the Childbearing Years?

Between meeting that special someone, starting your career, building up a nest egg and everything else that comes with being a responsible adult, you may be wondering when you’ll have time to start a family. If it seems like your biological clock is ticking away, understanding what the childbearing years are and when the best time to get pregnant is can help to ease your worries and help you to plan ahead.

Teen Pregnancy

The childbearing years start at the onset of menstruation, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine 1. Menstruation can begin anywhere from 8 to 16 years of age The average age of onset is 12. Even though teens aren’t emotionally, mentally or financially capable of caring for a baby in most cases, it’s still possible to get pregnant at this time. Having a baby during the teens years often results in lower school achievement, dropping out of high school and unemployment as a young adult.

There is also a greater chance of having a preterm baby during the teen years, notes the Maryland Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System 4. This may be in part due to a greater level of prenatal stress and lack of prenatal care.

Eggs and Fertility

You’re born with all of the eggs that you will ever have. Most women are born with one million follicles. Each follicle contains one egg. Even though you’re not ovulating as a child, by the time that you get to puberty it’s likely that you’ll only have 300,000 of those follicles left. From the onset of menstruation through menopause, you’ll only ovulate 300 follicles. As the number of follicles – and eggs inside – decreases, your fertility also goes down.

Best Chance for Conception

Your best chance for conception is during your 20s, notes the American Society for Reproductive Medicine 1. There is a greater chance of getting pregnant during this time and a reduced risk for some birth defects and prenatal problems than later in life. By the time that you get to your 30s, your fertility is on the decline. At age 30 most women have a 20 percent chance of conceiving every menstrual cycle.

Age and Your Baby

From your mid-30s onward, your risk increases of having a baby with chromosomal abnormalities, according to the Emory University School of Medicine 2. For example, at age 25 most women have a 1 in 1,300 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome. At age 35, this increases to 1 in 365. By age 40, this statistic jumps to 1 in 90, notes the American Pregnancy association 5. If you're over 35, and your doctor suspects that there's an issue with your pregnancy or cause for concern, you may need tests for genetic conditions. These tests can include amniocentesis, chorionic villus sampling or a blood test such as the quad marker screen or triple screen.

Over Age 40

Even though you may not go through menopause until you hit 50, your childbearing years are likely to be over during your mid-40s. While the birth rates for women over age 40 are on the rise, relatively few women continue to bear children after age 45. In 2013, there were slightly more than 10 live births for every 1,000 women ages 40 through 44, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 36. This number dips to 0.8 births for every 1,000 women 45 to 49. Given that most women reach menopause by age 50, in 2013 there were only a total of 677 births to women over 50.

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