When Is the "Right Time" to Get Pregnant?

mother with child
Image Rick Wilking/Reuters

There may never be a "right time" to have a baby, however many fertility experts suggest if women want to have a baby they should be planning for pregnancy as they age.

During a woman's early twenties, she will experience her most fertile years. Between 20 and 24 years of age, a woman's menstrual cycle is regular. Though your cycle may be regular you still only have a 20 percent chance of getting pregnant. During your early twenties, your miscarriage rate is approximately 9.5 percent. For a woman in their 20s, the chance of having a child with a birth defect such as Down syndrome or other abnormalities will be relatively low but that is still a possibility and genetic factors need to be taken into consideration.

If a woman maintains a healthy diet and exercise, conceiving during her mid-to-late twenties should not be a problem. Additionally, researchers believe if a woman begins to conceive during her 20s, she reduces her risk for developing breast and ovarian cancer. The more often a woman is pregnant the less she ovulates, which lowers the risk of these cancers. 

Between 25 and 29 years of age, a woman's miscarriage rate only increases by .5 percent to around 10 percent.

At the age of 30, a woman's fertility beings to decline and they should become more aware of her percentage of conceiving. Conversely, with in vitro fertilization (IVF), women between 30- and 34-years-old have a higher success rate of becoming pregnant. A woman's miscarriage rate increases to 11.7 percent and the risk of having a baby with Down syndrome becomes 1 in 952.

After 35, conceiving becomes very difficult. The risk of high blood pressure is during pregnancy is doubled and gestational diabetes is two to three times higher. The chance of needing a cesarean section is doubled, according to Gertrud Svala Berkowitz, PhD, professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive science at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

After the age of 35, a woman's miscarriage rate increases to 18 percent. Stillbirths are twice as likely. However, during a woman's late 30s, she is more likely to have multiple births such as twins and triplets, due to hormone stimulation.

By the age of 40 most women may need fertility assisted drugs. After 40, a woman's percentage of getting of pregnant declines to five percent. Nearly one-third of all pregnancies in women in their early 40s end in miscarriage. Problems such as the uterine lining may not be thick enough also arise, increasing the risk of miscarriage.

Most babies delivered by women 40 and over are more likely to have low birth weights, as well as a higher chance of Down syndrome.   By ages 45 to 49 a woman's chance of having a baby is a slim .03 percent. All pregnancies following 50 require assistance from fertility drugs. 

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