Today’s American Moms Are Older

PEW Research Center has released national findings on current trends of U.S. mothers by comparing women who gave birth in 1990 vs. woman who gave birth in 2008. Results of this report show a shift in age of mothers of newborns are older now than their counterparts were two decades ago; births to teen mothers are down while women over 35 are up. Numbers from 1990 showed teens accounted for 13% of all U.S. births, while women over 35 accounted for 9%. By 2008, 10% of births were to teens, and 14% were to women 35 and over.

Researchers have found that older mothers have a higher probability of pregnancy complications and delivery as well as a sense of emotional isolation:

  • Preeclampsia is more prevalent in women younger than 20 or older than 40.
  • Gestational diabetes occurs only during pregnancy, and it’s more common as women get older.
  • Miscarriage is higher in woman over 35.
  • Down Syndrome is a chromosomal condition that affects about 1 in 740 newborns. Although women of all ages can have a child with Down syndrome, the chance of having a child with this condition increases as a woman gets older.
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders or ASD has been found to be more prevalent in older mothers. A new NIEHS-funded study confirmed a link between advanced maternal age and an elevated risk of having a child with autism, regardless of the father’s age.
  • Emotional Isolation: Older mothers may find themselves more physically tired than their younger counterpart. They may also find themselves to be the oldest parent in their baby classes; giving them a feeling of isolation.

There is also a majority of professionals that believe older mothers have physical and psychological benefits over their younger counterparts. Women starting a family in their late 30s or 40s might lead a healthier life-style; they often have a higher level of education and are better off financially. Professionals stress an older woman can often have a healthy pregnancy and delivery and may reduce the risks if the mother is in good health before and during pregnancy and gets good prenatal care.

Links & Resources
Pew Research Center Publications; The New Demography of American Mothers
US Department of Health and Human Services website