According to data published in 2016 by the Ministry of Health, in the last 10 years in Italy the average age of the first birth has reached 32 years. This is a European record, which would seem to explain, in part, the problem of birth defects in our country and the fact that 1 in 5 couples have difficulty in procreation. In the other EU countries, new mothers are between 20 and 29 years of age, while we have the highest rate of women who have their first child after the age of 40 (about 6%), with all the risks involved. Because age is important to women, there is no doubt about it. However, even if alarmism about the possibility of having children after the age of 40 and the media pressure that invites Italian women not to underestimate the risk of infertility with increasing age continue, today the so-called first elderly women in Italy run much less risks than in the past and have a good chance of becoming pregnant with healthy children, as shown by some recent studies.
Let’s try to understand better, then, what are the real risks, false myths and data on the first elderly women in Europe.
PRIMIPATE ATTEMPTS IN ITALY: RISKS AND FALSE MYTHS
There is no doubt that it is more difficult for a woman to get pregnant as she gets older, but we must not engage in terrorism: the chances after the age of 30 are lowered, but not drastically, and a pregnancy after the age of 40 is no longer a rare occurrence, as in fact happens in our country. The article How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?, published by sociologist and psychology professor Jean Twenge in The Atlantic magazine in 2013, shed light on some false myths related to late first parents. The author wanted to reassure women of about 30 years of age who are victims of the so-called baby panic, or the psychosis of being late to have a child. The article reveals, in fact, how many beliefs about the risks and possibilities of failure after the age of 30 are based on data from 1700 and 1800 and do not take into account the changed physical and social conditions of women and the progress of science, also useful in treatments for infertility. Compared to those times, today at 40 years old women live a second youth, often supported by the achievement of an emancipation from work and economic and helped by biological processes and evolution, so that now life has lengthened and the body has adapted to change, so that the menopause rarely comes before 50 years.
Therefore, to the potential elderly first-timers who are afraid of not being able to have a pregnancy, it is really worth saying “don’t panic!”; the biological age, in fact, does not change, but the conditions and lifestyles fortunately do.
PREGNANCY AFTER THE AGE OF 35: NEW STUDIES THAT GIVE US HOPE
Even the very definition of old primiparous women sounds, if not peasant, at least demodé, all the more so since today some American studies seem to reassure us about the possibility of maternity after the age of 35, a trend that in Italy is almost normal. Studies on fertility among women of the 20th – 21st centuries are rare, but seem to give hope. The first research, also mentioned by Twenge, concerns a study on over 700 European women published in 2004 in Obstetrics & Gynecology and led by David Dunson of Duke University, which reveals that having sex at least twice a week, 82 percent of women between 35 and 39 years conceived within a year. Dunson’s conclusions are also endorsed by gender policy professor Elizabeth Gregory, who mentions some similar experiences in her blog. Twenge also brings to light another recent study, that of Kenneth Rothman of Boston University, who followed 2,820 Danish women seeking pregnancy. The final data show slight differences between women of different ages: 78% of women between 35 and 40 years of age got pregnant within a year, compared to 84% of those between 20 and 34 years of age. This difference is also reduced by up to 4 percentage points in other scientific research.
OLDER PRIMIPARA: WHAT ARE THE RISKS FOR THE MOTHER AND CHILD?
Assuring you of the risk of infertility after the age of 35 does not mean that there are no risks. Certainly the most delicate aspect, and one that is most influenced by the age of the mother, concerns genetic anomalies, in particular the syndrome of down in the unborn child, but also in this case the difference with younger mothers is not enormous and we must begin to worry seriously only after the age of 45. The risk of miscarriages or premature births is subjective and common to young and old women. If you are pregnant after the age of 35, you will need even more attention, especially when it comes to examinations. For the genetic risk we can say, therefore, that if amniocentesis around 25 – 30 years is optional, after 40 years it is almost mandatory. For the rest, the big difference lies in the lifestyle, so the so-called older primrops will have to be more attentive to their general health, avoid stress and take care of their psycho-emotional resources, which may be different from those of a 20-year-old girl. But without too much fear, neither for oneself nor for the incoming children, on the contrary: researchers at University College London have shown that the children of mature mothers are healthier, they learn to speak more quickly and to express emotions better.
MATERNITY: HOW TO HELP YOURSELF
We know that, as in the case of certain diseases or cancer prevention, proper nutrition can also help those who are looking for a child. In particular, women who want to get pregnant should preferably eat foods of vegetable origin and rich in fatty acids Omega-3 and Omega-6, whole carbohydrates and iron-rich foods. Moreover, for both men and women, lifestyles from an early age are fundamental: alcohol, smoking and sedentary lifestyle, together with endocrine disruptors typical of city smog, are among the main causes of infertility. Despite the variety of these factors, when it comes to maternity the spotlight is always almost exclusively on the age of the woman, not considering likely a pregnancy after 35 years.
It is true, statistics show that in Italy we have the primacy of the first elderly women, or women who become mothers at 40 years of age. However, what the data often does not say is that, with due care, it is possible to live a healthy and happy pregnancy even in old age, so avoid psychological terrorism that does not help conception and if you want a child start to look for it with serenity! Just to ensure a healthy growth of the child, you can choose to take out a health insurance policy for him from 4 years: Family Protection Boys provides a personalized program for the lifestyle, a counseling service with a pediatrician and discounts on some specific medical and rehabilitation services. Have you ever thought about it?