What Are the Disadvantages of Having Children Later in Life?

The decision to have children is a deeply personal choice and one that more women are putting off until later in life. The National Vital Statistics Reports found that the birth rate for women over 40 in 2011 was the highest in more than four decades 1. While more money, a more settled life and realized career goals make having a baby later in life more appealing, there are some disadvantages to consider before deciding what's right for you and your family.

Fertility Issues

One of the obvious problems in waiting to have children is the decline in fertility that happens as you enter your 30s and 40s. Simply put, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a woman's fertility reaches its peak in her 20s, after which she experiences a decline in her ability to conceive 2. The result can be the necessity for intervention in the form of in vitro fertilization, hormonal replacement therapy and other costly treatments relating to what may be considered a high-risk pregnancy.

Egg Quality and Birth Defects

The American Society for Reproductive Medicine also points out that a woman's egg quality declines as she nears menopause 2. The result is increased risk for miscarriage and birth defects relating to egg quality and fertility health. Women over 40 may produce eggs with too many or two few chromosomes, which can result in conditions like Down syndrome or the spectrum of trisomy disorders. Other age-related health issues, like high blood pressure, can affect a pregnancy, potentially leading to premature labor.

Physical Energy and Time

A study published in a 2012 issue of "Human Reproduction" polled women over 40 having their first babies after in vitro fertilization 3. When asked about some of the drawbacks of having babies later in life, one of the most common issues was that older parents tend to have less physical energy for the responsibilities that come with having a baby and less overall lifetime left to spend with their child. The subjects polled also identified "five to 10 years earlier" as the optimal time to have a baby.


A high-risk pregnancy simply costs more than a traditional pregnancy. Because of the health risks and issues surrounding a pregnancy in a woman's late 30s or beyond, these pregnancies are often considered high-risk from the first ob-gyn appointment. Add the cost of extra monitoring and care to the potential costs of in vitro fertilization -- "Psychology Today" notes that IVF can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $27,000 -- and waiting to have a baby can become seriously expensive 4. Luckily, older parents usually have higher-than-average incomes and consider the extra expense worth the outcome.

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