There’s no right time to have a baby.
Sure, doctors continue to suggest that women have their first baby before age 35. But what makes sense biologically isn’t always ideal from a social, emotional, financial or career standpoint.
At least that’s the case for the majority of today’s new moms. Last year, for the first time in history, North American women were more likely to have their first child in their early 30s than in their late 20s.
With this shift, researchers are studying the impacts of having kids later in life. In one study published in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society, women who had their baby later in life were mentally sharper. It seems the surge in hormone levels during pregnancy enhances your brain’s functioning and even promotes growth of brain tissue — two benefits that have long-term effects and prevent memory loss later in life.
Improved memory and brain cognition aren’t the only benefits to having a baby after you’re 35, though. Here are a few others:
1. A strong career track record
Many career-conscious women are able to rise up the proverbial ladder to a comfortable rung by the time they hit 35 years of age. With a decade or more of experience under their belt, professionals have often established their reputation and no longer feel the same pressure to prove themselves as they did when they were first starting out.
What’s more, by mid-career, many professionals have built strong, trusting relationships with managers, clients, colleagues, sponsors and more, the benefits of which may offset some of the penalties that come with motherhood.
2. Higher salaries in the long-term
Not only are 35 year olds at a more advanced position on their career track, they’re also earning higher salaries at the time of their baby’s birth. That’s good news, since newborns put a real dent in household budgets.
Moreover, the later women have babies, the greater their lifetime earning potential. A Danish study of birth statistics found that women who had babies when they were under 25 years of age lost between two and two-and-a-half years of income. After 31 years of age, women saw an increase to their lifetime labor incomes: 13% for college educated women and 50% for non-college educated women. According to US data, women with professional degrees and full-time jobs who had their family at 35 instead of 30 increased their salary by $16,000 per year on average.
3. Stronger, more stable relationships
By the time you hit your mid-30s, you're likely surrounding yourself with more stable, supportive relationships. Long gone are the friends who don’t nourish your life. Instead, the focus is on growing friendships that will provide you with strong support systems. These will come in handy during pregnancy and new parenthood, especially if your friends already have children. For single women who decide to have children later in life, these support systems are critical.
As for romantic relationships, 85% of new mature moms are married or in stable relationships. Oftentimes, women put off starting a family until they’ve found the right partner who shares their family values. Plus, backed with higher salaries, job skills and savings, mature women are less likely to stay in marriages that are neither happy nor healthy.
4. A mature life perspective
A mature mom is, well, mature. She has the life experience and knowledge of a life lived. This perspective brings many benefits to pregnancy and parenting. Aware of the risks associated with having a baby after 35, mature moms may be more focused on their health and well-being during pregnancy. Plus, studies show that older moms are more likely to give their kids a healthy start and place a greater focus on education. They may also be particularly patient and adept at setting boundaries, creating a more relaxed environment for children.
As with most things, there are pros and cons to every decision. When you have a baby is no different. Yes, there are risks with having a baby later in life, but there are also a good number of positive, long-term benefits to waiting until you're older to have children.
Lisa Durante is committed to helping working mothers thrive. She offers working moms training and resources to help them manage the transitions that come with parenthood. She also offers learning programs and consulting services to companies so they can better manage and support employees through parental transitions.