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More Women Delaying First Pregnancy: CDC

First births to women 35 and older have increased dramatically over last 40 years

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Key findings of the data analysis include:

  • For women 35 to 39, first birth rates rose sixfold from 1973 to 2006 (from 1.7 to 10.9 per 1,000 women).
  • For women 40 to 44, the rate increased more than fourfold from 1985 through 2012.
  • First birth rates rose among older women of all races and origins. Among those 40 to 44, increases in first birth rates rose 171 percent among blacks and 130 percent among whites.
  • For Asian/Pacific Islanders in both age ranges, the rate of first birth in 2012 was almost double that of the next highest group. "They're having first births at an older age than other population groups," noted Mathews.

There were, however, geographical variations.

Some states saw a greater increase in first births among older women. For example, the first birth rate for women 35 to 39 in Washington D.C., New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming rose at least 40 percent from 2000 to 2012.

During the same time period, the first birth rate for women 35 to 39 increased 30 to almost 40 percent in nine states, according to the report. Only four states saw no increase in first births among this age group: Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

And the first birth rate for women aged 40 to 44 rose at least 60 percent in Washington, D.C., Minnesota, Nebraska and South Carolina from 2000 to 2012, the investigators found.

What should women consider as they weigh when, or if, to have children?

"The risk of infertility is probably the most important thing people need to know. They should understand that if they're delaying childbirth beyond age 34, there's a very real possibility they may need in vitro fertilization, and that's not an easy thing to go through," said Herway.

She also cautions women to realize that as they age, they may not be able to get pregnant using their own eggs. "If they want to get pregnant [after 34], some may not be able to do it with their own genetic material," she added.

Obstetricians and gynecologists refer to pregnancies among women older than 34 as "advanced maternal age" or "geriatric" pregnancies, said Herway. "It doesn't sound good; you're just 34 and you're already considered advanced age."

Herway, who noted that she herself hasn't found time yet to have children, warns women against waiting too long to have their first child.

"We have so many things I can test for and medications I can give you, but when it comes down to having children, Mother Nature allows us to have babies at a certain age for a reason. I don't think we're smarter than Mother Nature," Herway said.

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