Education, Careers Put Off Motherhood

PARAGOULD, AR (KAIT) -- Becoming a mother is never an easy decision, no matter what age.  But many women are putting off the choice...opting first for careers and educations before entering motherhood.  Even though the biological clock is ticking, modern day culture isn't keeping time.

The average age of a first time mother in the U.S. has been rising steadily over the past four decades, up from 21.4 years in 1970 to 25 years in 2005.

Nikki Winn had her first daughter Tori when she was 25, now ten years later she is pregnant again.  It took her and her husband more than five years to conceive.  She's due to deliver another daughter in July at Arkansas Methodist Medical Center.

"I can tell a big difference in the age," said Winn, "A little more pain, a little more tiredness a lot more morning sickness this time-or all day sickness as I called it."

But being a mother later in life is tougher; women's fertility peaks around age 22.  After 35, pregnancy is much harder to achieve.

"I've been in school the whole time I've been pregnant and it's been a tough semester," said Winn, "I think it would have been easier if we would have been able to right away. And of course I would like Tory and her little sister to be closer in age together, but I wouldn't trade it for anything."

More than 1/3 of first time moms are over 30 when they have their first child.

"They are at a station in life where they are probably financially more capable of raising a child, emotionally more mature of being a parent. They have had more life experiences and are more settled in their life's goals," said obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Paul Becton, "But again that has to be balanced against the slightly increased risk of genetically and non genetically of halving problems with the pregnancy."

And the older the mother, the higher the risks.

"Down Syndrome, which is one that most people would be familiar with, the rate in the early 30's is one out of 700-1,000. At age 40, it's basically one out of 60. So that is a significant increase," said Dr. Becton.

Winn will be 36 when her daughter Megan is born...and ready to be a mother again.

"I do go to bed a lot earlier then I used to so that's going to make it a lot harder than it used to!" laughed Winn.

The National Center for Health Statistics reports that preliminary data shows that just over a quarter million women had their first live births at age 30 to 34.