Teen pregnancy is so last decade. A new study by the Pew Research Center has found that women over 35 are having significantly more children, while women under 20 are giving birth less frequently than in years past.
The study analyzed government data on births from 1990 to 2008 and found that nearly twice as many children were born to women over 35 in 2008 as there were in 1990. This age group gave birth to 603,000 babies in 2008 compared to 368,000 in 1990. On the other hand, women under 20 gave birth to 441,000 babies in 2008 and 533,000 in 1990.
“The statistics reflect far-reaching changes for women in society, affecting their decisions on when to marry and start families. The average age for marriage has been rising, as has the share of women who have attended college. Women with more education often delay marriage and childbearing while they complete their schooling and establish careers,” The Washington Post reports.
But while it’s undoubtedly good news for many families that fewer teens are getting pregnant, there is still some debate over whether women should give birth later in life.
The risk of having a child with birth defects increases significantly once women enter their late 30’s and 40’s. According to WebMD, “The traditional age at which a woman is considered to be at high risk for chromosomal abnormalities is 35. Approximately 1 in 1,400 babies born from women in their 20's have Down Syndrome; it increases to about 1 in 100 babies born with Down Syndrome from women in their 40s.” Similarly, the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth increases.
That said, the Mayo Clinic argues 35 may not be the cut-off age, though they encourage women to understand the risks and arrange to meet with a doctor before trying to have a child so they can assess whether their bodies are up to it. They also point out that women are more likely to have twins as they get older, which may explain why the number of babies birthed by this age group has gone up so drastically.