Couples are taking longer than ever to become parents. Since 1970, the United States has experienced an eight-fold increase in the number of women who get pregnant after age 35. And there are very real risks to waiting. Doctors agree that older mothers are more likely to suffer pregnancy complications such as placenta praevia, intrauterine growth restriction, fetal demise, gestational diabetes, hypertension, and cesarean delivery. And studies suggest advanced maternal age is linked to higher risk of autism, Down’s syndrome, and other disorders.
But there are also scientific advantages to being an older parent. So if you’re over 35 and expecting, here are a few studies you can whip out next time someone raises an eyebrow:
Older Moms Are Less Likely To Deliver Prematurely
You know what’s more likely to kill a baby than those pregnancy complications mentioned above? Preterm birth. It’s the most important risk factor for neonatal morbidity and mortality. And mothers in their 30s are significantly less likely to suffer preterm birth than younger moms, according to a new study in PLOS One. Researchers surveyed 165,000 births in 32 Canadian hospitals, and found that women between 30 and 34 were least likely to deliver prematurely, followed closely by those under 40. Women in their 20s and 40s were at highest risk.
Kids Born To Older Moms Have Fewer Behavioral Problems
After the dust settles and an older mom delivers her healthy baby, studies suggest that kid will be better behaved than his or her peers. One recent study in The European Journal of Developmental Psychology followed 5,000 mothers and children in Denmark, and checked in when the kids were 7, 11, and 15 years old. They found that older mothers reported having to use less verbal and physical punishment, and that the children had fewer behavioral, social, and emotional problems than children of younger mothers — even after scientists controlled for income and education. The authors suspect that older moms exercise more patience in raising children. Tell that to your skeptical 20-something friends, who can’t keep their own kids in line.
And They’re Also Taller And Smarter Than Their Peers
Swedish scientists surveyed 1.5 million adults in 2016 and found that those born to older mothers performed better in school, were more physically fit, and were slightly taller than those born to younger mothers. Although this study did not control for income and education and relied on self-reporting, it’s hard to sniff at a sample size of 1.5 million. So take this one with a grain of salt — but feel free to smirk as you imagine your kid towering over the competition.
Older Moms Make More Money…
Perhaps unsurprisingly, studies suggest that women who start their families later in life increase their earning potential. One investigation of birth statistics from Denmark found that women who had their first children before age 25 had the lowest incomes throughout their lives — and women who started their families after age 31 enjoyed the greatest financial gains. Then again, having kids altogether isn’t exactly a sound financial decision. The study also found that women who remained childless had double the lifetime earnings of women who started families.
…And Live Longer To Enjoy It
Women who have their first children after age 25 are 11 percent more likely to live to 90 than women who start before age 25. And women who start after age 33 have a 50 percent edge over those who finished having kids before age 30. These are the results of a 2016 study involving 28,000 women. But, like the study on height and academic achievement, the results were not well-controlled so it’s difficult to determine why older mothers live longer. One possibility is that healthier women tend to remain fertile longer than other women. Regardless, there’s good news for moms pushing 40 — you’re set up to not only out-earn but also out-live those jerks who finished building their families before you even had a chance to start your own.