The average age of women at their first birth has also risen over the past 4 decades, and since 2000, 46 states and DC have experienced a rise in the first-birth rate for women over 35.
"We are definitely seeing this in our practices," says Dr. Rebecca Starck, chair of the department of regional obstetrics and gynecology at Cleveland Clinic. Given what we know about the risks associated with pregnancy at later ages, should we be worried?
"A healthy 40 year old can have a much less risky pregnancy than a healthy 28 year old," says Starck, especially if she prepares her body for pregnancy with healthy food and exercise. Once pregnant, eating well, gaining the right amount of weight and abstaining from harmful behaviors like smoking also make a big difference.
The new report also shows that first time older mothers are generally more educated and more likely to have more resources like higher incomes than women of the youngest reproductive ages.
But the over-35 set still tend to face more risks and complications. For instance, the risks of having a child with a genetic disorder rise after 40, says Starck. It's still very likely the baby will be healthy and won't have a chromosome problem, she adds, but the risk does go up proportionally with age.
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Image: Mother and baby, via Shutterstock