The Best Time a Woman Should Have Children

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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Many women have asked this question or do have it in mind. When is the best time for a woman to have children? This is being necessitated by the increasing work pressure of today's society which is making it a bit difficult for women to comfortably balance family and work. As a result, many women are increasingly advancing their careers (which is great for the growth and development of any society) to stay relevant in the demanding work economy, postponing starting a family anytime soon.

While there's absolutely nothing wrong with a woman starting a family in her late 30s, she is at a much higher risk of having problems in any pregnancy in the late 30s and above. So, when is the best time for a woman to have children? According to medical research findings and multitudes of pregnancy outcomes in obstetric facilities across the world, the best time for a woman to become pregnant is between the ages of 20 and 35 years, with her probability of conceiving being highest in the early 20s.

Why are the risks of pregnancy complications higher after 35 years of age? This is the answer:

Unlike the man, the woman is born with all her eggs, about 2 million eggs in her ovaries at birth; she doesn't produce additional eggs after birth. This number reduces to around 400,000 eggs at puberty when she starts menstruating and continues to decline as she gets older to no eggs at menopause. For every egg the woman ovulates in each menstrual cycle, tens of other eggs die out in the competition process. This means that only the egg that's healthy survives the process of developing into a form that can be ovulated for a potential fertilisation by the man's sperm. The rest that start the journey (can be up to 50 or more) with this successfully ovulated egg probably contain one abnormality or the other which the woman's body automatically gets rid of.

However, once a woman gets to the age of 35 years and onwards, the likelihood of an egg with any abnormalities successfully being ovulated begins to increase. This means a woman who is 35 years and above may ovulate an egg with a certain genetic abnormality which goes on to become fertilised by a man's sperm leading to the growth and development of a baby with a genetic abnormality in the womb. This developing baby can end in two possible ways:

1. If the genetic abnormality in the baby is very severe, the woman's body will naturally get rid of it in the form of a miscarriage, especially in the first 3 months. This can be very emotionally challenging for the couple especially if it happens more than once.

2. The baby can make it through to birth, resulting in the delivery of a baby with abnormalities such as Down Syndrome, a very small head (microcephaly) and other very bizarre abnormalities that can overwhelm the family taking care of such babies.

In addition, women who are 35 years and above have a higher risk of developing complications like diabetes and hypertensive disorders in pregnancy.

This is not to say that every woman aged 35 and above who gets pregnant will have any of these problems or that it is a rule that every woman must marry and have children before she is 35 years.

Instead, it is to advise every woman, especially those who get married in their late 30s, on the importance of preconception care which we talked about in one of our previous health tips. Women who start a family in their late 30s will reduce their risk of having problems like miscarriage, stillbirth or diabetes and hypertension in pregnancy if they seek and receive preconception care between 3 to 6 months before becoming pregnant. And when they become pregnant, a proper antenatal care will guide them through a healthy pregnancy to ensure the delivery of a healthy baby.

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For more advice and help, consult a doctor online.
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Published Monday, April 17th 2017

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