(RxWiki News) With the changes in medical treatment and technology and shifts in the female workforce, more and more women are having children at older ages.
A recent report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that the rate of older women having babies for the first time has continued to increase.
While having a baby after age 40 can mean increased risks for the baby and the mother, older first-time moms have some advantages too.
The CDC reported that these older moms tended to be better educated than younger first-time moms, and they were more likely to have higher incomes and more resources than their younger counterparts.
"Attend all prenatal appointments."
This report, written by T.J. Mathews and Brady Hamilton at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Vital Statistics, analyzed the rates of first children born to older women.
Specifically, the researchers tracked the rates of first-time births to women aged 35 to 39 and women aged 40 to 44 from 1970 through 2012.
For the later years, from 2000 to 2012, the researchers were also able to break down the data by state, and for 1990 through 2012, they analyzed differences in age by race.
Among both age groups, the rate of first-time births has steadily increased since the 1970s, with the exception of one dip in the rate between 2006 and 2010 for women aged 35 to 39.
Among women aged 40 to 44, the rate has more than doubled since 1990, with most of this increase occurring since the mid-1980s.
In fact, between 1985 and 2012, the number of first-time moms aged 40 to 44 actually quadrupled.
Although the increases have occurred across all racial groups, the biggest growth was seen among black women in both age groups.
In more recent years, from 2000 to 2012, the rate of first-time moms aged 35 to 39 has not changed much in Arizona, Idaho, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
However, large increases of 40 percent or more were seen during those years in New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington, Wyoming and the District of Columbia.
Meanwhile, the oldest first-time moms, aged 40 to 44, remained about the same during those years in 15 states and increased by 60 percent or more in Minnesota, Nebraska, South Carolina and the District of Columbia.
The authors did not discuss the possible reasons for the increase, but they noted that the increase in first-time older moms can have long-term effects on the future growth of the US population.
It's likely that improving options in fertility treatments plays at least some role in the increase.
"Today's woman has many more goals in life than to have children. This is a distinct change from women of the 50s and 60s," said Andre Hall, MD, an OBGYN at Birth and Women's Care, PA in Fayetteville, NC. "As women pursue careers and other personal goals, we have seen a steady increase in the age of first-time mothers."
He said there have been both positive and negative results from this reality.
"From a medical standpoint, the obvious downside is that we've seen an increase in the need for fertility services as many women push the boundaries of when they are able to spontaneously conceive," he said. "While career and personal goals are extremely important, women and couples choosing their timing on when to have children must balance their personal and career goals with the physiology of the 'child-bearing years'."
The report was published May 9 as a National Center for Health Statistics Data Brief. It was funded by the CDC, and no conflicts of interest were reported.