Why women are delaying pregnancy despite age differences
Obstetrics & Gynecology article Obstetricians and gynecologists have long known that age differences are a problem in preventing women from having babies at younger ages.
But new research suggests the reasons are not entirely clear.
The findings have some health advocates wondering whether a lack of awareness of age differences may have led women to delay pregnancies.
It may not be that they’re trying to get pregnant at younger than average ages, the authors write in the July issue of the journal Obstetrology & Gynecol.
It may be that women are simply not aware of the age difference and aren’t taking steps to reduce the risk of pregnancy.
“The fact is, there are many factors that contribute to women’s age-related delay,” says Dr. Roberta R. Kowalczyk, director of the department of obstetrics and gynecol at the University of New Mexico.
“They’re not always the most pressing ones, but there’s a lot of other things that affect them.”
What causes the problem?
Age differences may be partly to blame for the delay, but not the only one.
Older women are more likely to smoke, have lower education levels and be more likely than younger women to be obese.
They are also more likely, on average, to be current smokers.
Obstetricians often see this pattern in the hospital, but it is also seen in other settings, including in private practice and in some areas of the population, like the military.
Women in the military are also older, and their pregnancies are more difficult to perform.
The researchers tracked the birth rates of 2,907 pregnant women ages 25 to 35 in Arizona and Hawaii between 2008 and 2011.
About 4% of the women had been having a baby at the time of their pregnancy.
Researchers used data from the 2010 U.S. Census Bureau and birth certificates to calculate the number of births per 1,000 women ages 20 to 34 in each state.
The researchers also collected information on the mothers’ race and ethnicity and the number and type of health care professionals they consulted.
In Arizona, women ages 35 to 44 were more than four times as likely to have had a baby than those in age 20 to 29.
And, for the women in age 25 to 29, the odds were 3.6 times higher that they had had a pregnancy than those ages 20 and 29.
Obsts also analyzed birth records in Hawaii, where there were about 12,000 births per year between 2000 and 2008.
The odds of having a child at the age of 25 to 34 were 4.4 times higher than for women in ages 20, 20, and 20 to 19.
The women in their 30s were about 3.5 times more likely.
In New Mexico, the number-one cause of women’s delay was smoking, and women who smoked more than three packs a day were more likely not to have a baby.
In Arizona, the smoking rate was about 4.5% higher among women in the 20s than in the 30s.
The authors of the study say there is still plenty of research that needs to be done to understand why these differences exist.
But the study shows that age-linked delays in pregnancy have a clear impact on women’s health and can make it more difficult for women to have healthy babies.