Getting Pregnant in My 20s or 40s: What are the Pros and Cons of Each Choice?  

As women we are so used to everyone having an opinion about us and our choices – our weight, our make-up, our clothes… 

Surely when it comes to making that life-changing decision about when’s the best time to have a baby we should be able to simply decide for ourselves without everyone else having to give us their tuppence-worth? Apparently not! With the average age of first motherhood in the UK now hovering around the early thirties, any woman who dares to consider having her firstborn in the decade either side has to put up with judgey comments and raised eyebrows. 

So let’s take a good look at the hard facts so that we can weigh up the pros and cons of pregnancy in our twenties or forties and make our own informed choice and stare down those who poke their noses in.

After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts! 

Firstly, we have to actually get pregnant and there really is no doubt at all that this is far easier to achieve the younger we are – that’s simple biology. Among those actually trying to conceive (so couples having unprotected sex at least twice a week), over 90% of those in their twenties will fall pregnant within the year. 

Now fertility certainly drops steadily through our thirties but not as much as the doom-sayers would have you believe. It you are actively trying to get pregnant as you plan your 40th birthday party then your chances of getting that little blue line appearing on your pregnancy test strip is still somewhere around 70% within the year. But you do need to be trying and also to be aware of the steep drop-off in conception rates after you’ve eaten the last bit of cake and taken down the birthday bunting. For those in their early 40s NOT putting their mind to it and getting busy between the sheets on a regular basis, the rate of natural pregnancy within the year stands at around a bit over 30% at age forty but already down to 20% just four years later.  

What about staying pregnant. Again, the younger you are, the less likely you are to miscarry. Overall, around 1 in 5 pregnancies end in miscarriage but these losses are not evenly distributed across the ages. Women in their 20s have around a 10% risk whilst those in their forties it is closer to the 50% mark. And the risks of gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and babies being ‘small for dates’ or stillborn are all more common once we reach our forties. You can consult experts like Your Loving Choices for additional guidance on pregnancy.

But what about other factors such as income and stability of relationships?  

With the average cost of bringing up a child to the age of eighteen standing at an eye-watering £160,692 someone in the house really does need to be bringing home the bacon and having your first baby in your twenties rather than your forties can lose you more than two years worth of income (around £50k) over your working lifetime. 

The financial burden is even greater for solo mums and the likelihood of relationship breakdown is the highest for those who marry in their twenties. The safest age to wed? Your thirties. And then waiting a while for a family brings added protection to the marriage. So getting your career sorted, waiting to settle down and then holding out a little longer before starting a family can bring the financial and emotional stability that young children need.  

So the hard facts: it’s quicker and less physically risky to get pregnant in your twenties but more emotionally and financially safe to wait another couple of decades. With the advances in fertility and medical care we have access to now, some of those age-associated risks can be overcome and so it then comes back to you … making that choice and telling everyone else to keep their opinions to themselves! 

Written by: Rachel Fitz-Desorgher

You can hear more from Rachel at taking place 21-23 October 2022 at London Olympia. The UK’s Leading Baby & Parenting Shows in London ExCel, London Olympia, and the Birmingham NEC. Everything for Bump, Baby & You Under One Roof. Her book Your Baby Skin to Skin is available to by on Amazon. 

Rachel FitzD worked as a specialist midwife for 30 years before writing her book Your Baby Skin To Skin. She now works as a baby and parenting expert and presents regularly for The Baby Show.