More Women Waiting Longer to Have Children

For the first time in history, American women over the age of 30 are having more babies than younger moms.

Shawn Hill wanted to start a family for years. At age 33, the time felt right.

“You're more secure in your workplace and finances than we were in our 20s,” she said.

At Foxhall OB/GYN in Washington, D.C., Dr. Lynne Lightfoote said most of the expecting moms they see are in their 30s and 40s.

“I feel like it's been that way for kind of a while,” she said.

She points to more opportunities in the workplace as a big reason.

“I think more women have more opportunities to start their careers, have a career before starting their families," she said.

The number of babies born to moms in their 30s is higher than those born to moms in their 20s. In every state, the average age of first-time moms is also up.

With waiting, there are more risks. After age 30 the chances for miscarriage, Down syndrome and chromosomal abnormalities increase. But Dr. Lightfoote said they can screen for these problems better than ever before and monitor medical complications such as diabetes and hypertension.

“All those things can be followed, managed appropriately,” she said. “They shouldn't deter people from getting pregnant.”

In addition to the ability to reduce risks in pregnancy, the ability for older women to have babies has also improved.

After seven years of failed fertility treatments, Ashley Holladay and her husband, Alex, are expecting a baby girl in the fall.

"You immediately just want to start shouting it from the rooftops, but there's another part of you that's like, I don't know if I can get excited yet," she said.

At age 32, her latest round of in vitro fertilization worked.

"It's nice to know there are so many options, and even if you do have trouble in the beginning, you can get over that hump eventually," she said.

At Dominion Fertility, Dr. John Gordon said huge strides have been made in reproductive technology.

In Holladay's case, a new fertility test called ERA pinpointed the best time for her to get pregnant.

“Even though we had a genetically normal embryo, we found out that her implantation window, for whatever reason, was shifted by 24 hours,” Gordon said.

According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, more women are getting medical help to have babies, but it can be costly -- tens of thousands of dollars in some cases, if insurance doesn't cover it.

“We were 100 percent completely out of pocket, but it's worth it, you know, when you get this ending,” Holladay said.

The statistical shift in mothers' ages also has to do with fewer teenagers having babies, health experts said.

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