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Ideal Age to Have a Baby
Q: I’m only 19 but was wondering when is the best time to plan to have a baby: in your 20s, 30s or 40s? Are there benefits to having kids at a certain age?
A: This is a great question that goes beyond the scope of a short answer. Planning for a baby includes many considerations about your health, your economic circumstances, your education and career desires, your personal relationships and your network of support.

From a strictly biologic point of view, it makes sense to have a baby in your 20s if you are healthy. Your fertility is at its peak, the chances for miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalities are low and you are as fit as you’ll ever be for carrying a child. As we age, our fertility lessens and our chances for miscarriage and chromosomal accidents increase. It may be more difficult to conceive a healthy a baby in your 40s. Once your ovaries stop producing healthy eggs there are no medical techniques to reverse this. I have had the heartbreaking job of telling a number of women in their 40s that they are too old to conceive naturally. So I generally remind childless women in their 30s about their “biologic clock.”

However, biology is only part of the story.

In terms of your psychology, 20 may seem too early to begin a family. You may be in college or beginning a career, and not yet financially stable. You may be exploring different kinds of relationships and may not yet have entered a healthy, committed, long-term relationship. You may be just beginning to learn what it means to live independently from your own family, and having a baby may be the last thing on your mind.

Having a child is an enormous commitment of time, energy, money and love, and it often requires a great deal of sacrifice. A baby will benefit from physically strong, psychologically healthy parents who are financially and emotionally ready to accommodate the needs of a growing child. If there are no pressing medical issues that suggest having a baby soon, I recommend waiting until these other components of your life are in place before starting a family.

Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist