The average age of first-time mothers is on the rise in the United States. One study suggests that this might not be such a bad thing.
In 1970, the mean age of a first-time mother in the United States was 21 years old. Fast forward nearly five decades and that number has gone up substantially. Now, CDC data suggests that women are having their first child at around 28 years old.
While these numbers partially reflect the steady decline in the teenage birth rate, it is true that women are delaying having children. The booming fertility business coupled with a societal shift in values has allowed women to focus on their careers, pushing back establishing a family. For others, the choice is more practical. Financial considerations coupled with poor maternity leave policies in the United States have some women holding off pregnancy until a later date.
Certainly, there are some serious considerations for women who put off motherhood, as the professional body of Gynecologists and Obstatricians (AGOG) has adamantly pointed out. Women over the age of 35 are considered “advanced maternal age” and that carries increased, and potentially life-threatening, risks to both mother and child.
However, there are also some advantages to becoming a mother later in life, as a study conducted by researchers at the University of California has revealed.
The researchers evaluated 820 naturally post-menopausal women using a cognitive assessment. The volunteers were given several tests that included verbal memory, such as remembering a list of words, psychomotor speed, planning, visual perception, and attention and concentration. Researchers then looked at several reproductive variables, including age at pregnancy, first period, and menopause. They also looked at the overall reproductive period, including the number of pregnancies.
The study found that women who had their last child after the age of 35 had better verbal memory, or memory for words and verbal items. The researchers believe that the surge of pregnancy hormones positively impact brain function and chemistry, which had lasting effects if the pregnancy occurred later in life.
“Based on the findings, we would certainly not recommend that women wait until they’re 35 to close their family, but the study provides strong evidence that there is a positive association between later age at last pregnancy and late-life cognition,” lead author Roksana Karim said.
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Mothers may not be the only ones benefiting from having children later in life. A large Dutch study found that children born to older mothers thrive better in life. According to the research conducted on nearly 5,000 mothers, older maternal age was associated with less frequent yelling and harsh punishments on children. Those children also had fewer social, emotional, and behavioral issues.