When is the Best Time to Start Trying to Have a Baby?
With the US Department of Agriculture estimating the cost of a new baby at around $20,000 for the first year, including the cost of birth, day care, and other baby essentials, couples might wonder whether there is an optimal time for procreation.
While interviews with most experienced parents reveal no “perfect” timing, couples can make the birth of a child less taxing by taking a few factors into account. Minimize your stress and maximize your joy by considering age, finances, and career goals before taking the plunge into parenthood.
Consider your age when trying to decide on a time to get pregnant. According to the BabyCenter Medical Advisory board, your fertility peaks at around age 24, making your twenties the best age to have a baby from a biological perspective.
Women are born with all of the eggs they will ever have: about 1 million at birth and 300,000 by puberty. As women grow older, these eggs age and the quality can deteriorate, leading to genetic abnormalities that cause problems such as Down syndrome. Women in their twenties often experience fewer gynecologic problems, such as endometriosis, and face a lower risk of miscarriage, about 10 percent for women ages 20-24 versus 18 percent for women ages 35-39.
You might also find it easier to get pregnant in your twenties, since only 7 percent of 20 year-olds struggle with infertility versus two-thirds of those over 40. Think about freezing your eggs if you want to wait several years to get pregnant; many fertility clinics offer this service, which can help minimize the risk of deteriorating egg quality.
Evaluate your finances carefully before deciding to try to get pregnant. While many couples do make a baby work with finances that are less than optimal, it is smart to ensure you have some financial stability before planning a baby. If one partner plans to stay home for a period of time (or indefinitely) when baby arrives, you might try to live on one partner’s income for several months before getting pregnant, to see how manageable it will be.
Research the costs of daycare or nanny services in your area to get an idea of how much you can expect to pay once your baby arrives. You should also look into your health coverage to make sure it provides maternity coverage (some policies do not). Sign up for long-term disability if you don’t already have this coverage since pregnancy complications can occur that might cause you to leave your job for weeks (or months).
Consider the big picture when postponing childbirth to focus on your career. While many couples feel happier and more secure once they finish college and begin a successful career, babies will wreak havoc on career plans regardless of when they happen.
According to Phyllis Moen, a professor of sociology at the University of Minnesota, there is no perfect time to have a baby career-wise. She advises couples, “Don’t wait until the right time in your career to have a child or it will never come.” Check into whether job-sharing, part-time or work-at-home positions, or on-site childcare options are available at your place of employment. Anticipate some changes as a result of your new baby and talk to your partner about how both of you will handle these issues.
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