When it comes to having children, there are a ton of factors to consider: Am I healthy and financially stable? Did I find the right partner? Am I ready and is the timing right? It's a such a complicated equation it could make anyone's head spin. Plus, there no doubt exists a widely held belief that a younger mom means a healthier baby—so now all of this is also under enormous time pressure, leading to a lot of panicked 30-something-year-old women.
But is age really the most important factor when it comes to having a healthy pregnancy and baby? According to a new study, it probably isn't. New research from the U.K. says this pressure to procreate before the age of 35 might be based on information that is way outdated. In fact, being an older mom might even lead to more successful children.
Being an older mom isn't like it was 50 years ago.
Scientists from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research (MPIDR) looked at data on maternal age and child cognitive ability from three studies—one from 1958, one from 1970, and one from 2001. What they found was pretty staggering: in the earlier studies there was a slightly negative association between a child's cognitive ability and material age, but that association became positive after the year 2000.
Good cognitive ability early in life is a good way to predict a child's future success and quality of life including educational achievement, career path and health status. So essentially, children born from moms age 35-39 outperformed those who were were born from moms 25-29—a complete reversal from earlier studies and a challenge to current stigma about having children after 35.
A healthy baby is about way more than just age.
This study tells us that to a certain extent, a woman's health and quality of life is more important than her age. In the past, older mothers tended to have less money, more children, and a lower quality of life. But these days, older mothers are more likely to invest in education, have an established career, and are less likely to engage in unhealthy activities during pregnancy. So while age is a factor, it's definitely not the only factor.
Besides inducing a sigh of relief for many women, this study is part of a growing body of evidence showing that the way we take care of our bodies and prioritize our health is more important factors like age, or even our DNA. And that's good news! Because we definitely can't stop time, but we can do a lot to make ourselves healthier and our lives baby-ready.