The running, the jumping, the skipping and the cleaning, the homework and the school plays – it’s no news that children are tiring and although it’s a difficult job for anyone, looking after young children is even harder when you are older. Your energy levels deplete as you age and although you can improve your diet and take energy-boosting supplements you may never feel like you have enough oomph to give your child everything they need. Also, although you may feel full of beans now, what will you feel like in 10 or 15 years when your child is older?
One of the biggest worries that concerns older parents is whether they will be able to see their child grow up into an adult, or get the chance to see their grandchildren come into the world. You have to ask yourself whether it is better to bring someone into the world even if they may experience great pain in losing you, or whether it is best never to have tried at all. It is a difficult question to answer and there is no right or wrong answer.
Are you prepared?
In recent studies most parents who have their first child after their 40th birthday say that the best time to have children is in fact in their thirties, but there are also lots of benefits to having a child later in life. Parents past the age of 40 often feel more emotionally able to cope with the demands a child brings. Mature parents also believe they are more self-aware and have a greater understanding of what a child needs to grow up into a successful adult than they did when they were younger. Plus, older parents are usually more stable, both financially and in their relationships. Your child will be spending many years at school, rooting you to one spot, so stability in your career, a willingness to stay put for a bit and the maturity to accept that will count for a lot. So, although there are some medical risks and health factors to consider, having a baby when you are older does have its benefits.
Health risks for your baby
The biggest consideration when thinking about having a child as an older parent is the health implications for both the mother and the baby. Mothers over the age of 35 are more likely to have premature babies, have miscarriages and have a child with Down’s syndrome. Mothers who conceive over the age of 40 are at higher risk of pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure and diabetes (also known as gestational diabetes) during pregnancy. Also, fathers and mothers who are forty plus are more likely to have children with autism.
Another cause for concern for older parents is that they worry their values will be outdated and inconsistent with the world their child will grow up in. We all know how quickly things change and the values and morals our grandparents tried to instil in our parents are quite different to the lessons we may want to teach our children. If this is a concern you have, you should ask yourself if you will be able to be flexible and understanding when you are faced with these generation gaps. Can you accommodate new ideals and lifestyles in your parenting plan?
Doctors recommend that people should have children between the age of 20 and 35, suggesting that fertility rates decline past the age of 35 for both men and women. Researchers have found that in men, the quality of sperm reduces as the cells in the testicles age. For women, a similar deterioration occurs, but in the woman’s eggs. This natural ageing makes it more difficult to become pregnant over the age of 35, but it does not make it impossible. If you are over the age of 35 and want to get pregnant then you should improve your overall health by eating a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Caffeine, alcohol and fatty foods are said to affect fertility, so should be reduced or avoided. Guys should try to up their intake of zinc as this helps sperm production.
Make sure you see a doctor if you have been trying to conceive for over six months and are aged 35 or above so that you can receive further help and advice.
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