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Older Mothers Have Higher Risk of Miscarriage

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But could there be benefits to having kids at an older age that outweigh the biological disadvantages? Some experts think so.

"We think they are in a position to be better mothers because they know more and they pay more attention, etc," Mervyn Susser, MB, BCh, tells WebMD. Susser and colleague Zena Stein, MD, say teen-age mothers have a biological advantage because younger age is associated with better pregnancy outcomes, but compared with women in their 30s and 40s, teen-agers and even women in their 20s are usually not as mature or as financially stable as older women.

The reasons why women wait to have children are diverse, but many cite pursuit of higher education, busy careers, and lack of time to build solid relationships.

Naomi Pelzig, MD, didn't get married until she was 38. She had her first child six years ago at age 42 and her second at age 46.

"I realize in retrospect that I was really lucky," says Pelzig, now 48, a doctor who practices acupuncture and holistic medicine in Nyack, N.Y. She says though there is no question that plenty of women do get pregnant in their 40s, she thinks some women justify delaying pregnancy by looking to the well-publicized celebrity pregnancies and assuming they will have the same success.

"We need to let younger women know that they can't wait as long as we thought," Pelzig says. "Even though it's often not our fault, we have to make relationships and family as least as important as career."

But statistics confirm that women are indeed waiting longer than ever before to have children. Just last week, the state of Massachusetts released figures showing that in 1998 the majority of women who gave birth were age 30 and over. The state says this is the first time women over 30 have outdistanced younger women in birth statistics. In 1980, three times as many women who gave birth were under, rather than over, age 30. It is not known if the trend is as prevalent in other parts of the country as it appears to be in the northeast.

Andrea Kott, a 42-year old medical writer in Sleepy Hollow, N.Y, who had both of her children in her late 30s, says she thinks some women wait because they want to be in the best possible place in their lives before starting a family and want to feel that they have reached their career potential.

"For me, having kids was a reflection of being in a good personal place," she says. "Where I live, I'm not in a minority; most of my peers with young kids are around the same age as me." But she admits that staying fit and healthy is a priority when you're over 40 and have small kids.

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