Growing up with a mom who had me in her late 30s (38, to be exact) I always had the reassurance that I can choose to have children later in life while still (hopefully) having a safe pregnancy.
Thirty years ago, it might've been more taboo to have children later in life, but these days, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, plenty of women over 35 and even some over 40 are giving birth to their first child.
Knowing all of this, I was intrigued when I came across a TikTok video of Christine Noa Sterling, M.D., FACOG (@drsterlingobgyn) — an OBGYN and the founder of SterlingParents which is a membership resource program created with the hopes of reducing the mental load of pregnancy.
In the TikTok, Dr. Sterling replies to a comment on the screen that reads, "Disagree! Having old parents is really hard!"
"Here's why I will always support people who want to delay childbearing, even if that means they're going to be [of] advanced maternal age. Having older parents can be hard. Having younger parents can be hard."
She then goes on to explain a few advantages of having children later in life and becoming an "older parent."
I spoke to Dr. Sterling to hear more of her thoughts and expert advice on this important topic, which I honestly feel more people should be talking about.
Dr. Sterling said there are benefits to both advanced maternal age and their offspring. For some context on this term, Dr. Sterling said advanced maternal age is not defined universally but in the US is considered age 35 and up on the estimated due date.
"Increased longevity is one of the benefits of having children at an older age. There is evidence that pregnancy after 35 could actually fundamentally change the aging process by impacting something called telomeres which are crucial in the genetics of aging," Dr. Sterling explained.
Dr. Sterling then went on to share some of the benefits children with older parents can experience are reduced risk of injuries (as a child), and improved health and development. Other benefits include a lower risk of behavioral, social, and emotional difficulties.
Despite the many benefits of getting pregnant at an older age, a common worry is the possibility of birth defects, and Dr. Sterling certainly acknowledges that. She shared more, telling BuzzFeed, "There is an increased risk of chromosomal abnormalities in advanced maternal age (things like Down Syndrome) which are associated with an increased risk of birth defects."
But, says Dr. Sterling, according to the evidence outlined in this 2017 study, there is a possibility that the chromosomes are normal, and when that happens, there is actually a decreased risk of birth defects in advanced maternal-age pregnancies.
Dr. Sterling said it's important to keep in mind that your probability of getting pregnant with intercourse on the most fertile day of your cycle does decrease as you get older. For instance, a person's chances of getting pregnant when they're ovulating between the ages of 19 and 26 is 50%, and that number decreases to 30% between the ages of 35 and 39.
With all of that being said, it's important to remember that infertility can happen to anyone, and there are other factors that play a role aside from age. "Young people also experience infertility. There is male factor infertility. Health also plays a part. So, while age is a factor, it's not the only one," Dr. Sterling told BuzzFeed.
If you're thinking of waiting to have children and want to know your options, Dr. Sterling suggests considering freezing your eggs if you're able to.
"I am a huge proponent of fertility preservation with egg and/or embryo freezing. While it's not a guarantee that you will be able to have your own biological child, it can take a lot of pressure off," she said.
"In general, [if you're financially able to], the earlier you freeze your eggs, the better because younger people tend to yield more eggs in the process. While there isn't a specific age recommendation that fits everyone, I believe it's something one should consider in their early 30s and for some, even earlier," Dr. Sterling continued.
Dr. Sterling's video has over 400k views with thousands of people sharing their thoughts and experiences in the comment section.
This commenter shared their positive experience growing up with older parents.
And this commenter's worries were put to ease by Dr. Sterling's informative video.
Lastly, it's important to keep in mind that everyone's bodies are different, so talk to your doctor to explore your options and learn more about fertility.