What is the best age for a woman to have a baby?

Should you listen to the ticking of the biological clock or is it ok to go by a few more years? Deciding when to have a baby is never easy.

As Indians, nearly all of us have been told by the responsible women folk in our families (looking at you – mom and mother-in-law), that it’s best to have a baby soon after marriage… or at least before you hit that non-magical age of 30. I always imagine the tick-tock of the biological clock, which in India is not really measured by the woman’s age as it is by the age of the marriage. 3 years into the marriage, if you are “without child”, the questions start to arise. First they’re whispers, then rumours, then assumptions, till it becomes an in-your-face question – why aren’t you having kids?

Forget that. Scientifically, what is the best age for a woman to have kids? There is obviously no one-size-fits-all answer. But there is more than whatever-works-for-each individual. Let’s face it. Your body can deal with the changes in the 20s far easier than it can in your 30s. Hormonally, physically, mentally, everywhere, you’re stronger and can bounce back to your work, routine, pre-pregnancy weight, whatever much sooner than you can in your 30s. Interestingly, this is the case, no matter if it is your first child or fifth. But there are other considerations to be made. Sure, the “peak fertility” for women is between the ages of 20 and 24, which explains the early marriage and childbearing trends of previous generations. But women of this generation, want a career, to travel, their own independence and much more. Marriages are pushed to 25-28 and kids to even later. There are multiple camps on this one too, as can be expected.

On the 20’s camp is Neha Bhatia*, who had her twins at 27. She says, “I can’t imagine doing this now when I’m in my mid-30’s. My energy levels have dropped and I can see that I simply don’t have the stamina I did before. At this age, I can’t even imagine having one kid, let alone two. So, I’m super glad I did it when I did.”

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Speaking for the 30’s camp is Neha’s own best friend, Shalini Vaidya*. What she has to say is a mirror of most mid-30s career-oriented women. “I have an MBA in marketing and I got married to a like-minded individual. We were both blooming in our careers in our mid 20’s and it never seemed like the right time to get pregnant. We also wanted to travel the world together before the baby came along. I finally had my child at 33. The pregnancy wasn’t neither too easy nor too hard. But because we are financially stable and in a home of our own, now I can afford outside help and so even though the nights of breastfeeding took a toll on me, I am back to work as a focussed contributor and home in the evening as a hands-on mom. I really think things worked out for the best.”

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As for those who can’t exactly choose, assisted reproduction is hitting new highs everyday. In vitro fertilization (IVF), surrogacy, egg freezing and even more advanced reproductive technologies are available to those with sufficient bank balances.

Ultimately, every age has its own perks, downfalls and responsibilities. The one thing no one is going to argue is that whenever that first child arrived was surely the right time.

*- Names changed to protect individual privacy.

 

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