Is Waiting to Have Kids Actually Better for Their Health?

We've all heard that having kids later in life can be risky, but a new study says the benefits may outweigh those risks.
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Here's a funny story: A few summers ago, a mom I'd met through my now 10-year-old was throwing herself a big birthday bash on the night of my actual 43rd birthday.

And as I sat in the passenger seat on the way to the festivities, I took a minute to whine about it. "I can't believe I have to go celebrate someone turning 40 when I turned 43 today," I lamented.

"Um, Holl?" my friend Rachel interjected from the backseat. "She's not turning 40. She's turning 35."

Ouch.

I had my daughter at 32, which was a little on the late-ish side for my suburban town, though I was far from the only one who had actually graduated high school in the 80s. But thanks to a miscarriage and some issues with polyps, I didn't have my son until four years later. Which makes me the oldest mama in his grade. By a lot.

Most of the time, the age gap doesn't bother me. But there are times when it does. Like when I stop and think about the fact that while most of my friends from high school currently have kids in college, my little one is just rounding fourth grade. Plus, to date, research has suggested that the older women are when they give birth, the worse things will be for their kids health-wise.

Say what?!

Researchers in Sweden gathered data on 1.5 million men and women born between 1960 and 1991 in order to study the age of their moms when they were born, plus things like height, physical fitness, grades in high school, and educational attainment.

Here's what they found: When moms delayed having kids until they were older, even as old as 40 and up, they had children who were taller, got better grades, and were more likely to go to college.

Why? According to the researchers, the risks associated with childbearing at older ages are either counterbalanced, or outweighed, by the positive changes in the world during the time the mother delayed having kids.

Or in other words, people are getting healthier every year, so it pays off to be born later. For example, a woman born in 1950 who had a child at the age of 20 would have given birth in 1970. But if that same woman waited until she was 40 to have a kid, she would have given birth in 1990.

"Those twenty years make a huge difference," explained study author Mikko Myrskylä, pointing to the fact that a child born in 1990 was much more likely to go to college than one born 20 years earlier. "We need to develop a different perspective on advanced maternal age. Expectant parents are typically well aware of the risks associated with late pregnancy, but they are less aware of the positive effects."

Or as I like to say...in your face, young moms!

Hollee Actman Becker is a freelance writer, blogger, and a mom. Check out her website holleeactmanbecker.com for more, and follow her on Twitter at @holleewoodworld.

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