Thanks to a glorious concoction of changing social expectations, increased workplace opportunities, improved fertility technology and more, women are increasingly waiting until later in their lives to have children. In fact, the average age at which a woman in the UK now has her first child is nearing 30.
The benefits of this are many – not least that it allows women to be in a stable enough economic position to care for another human being – but fertility experts (egged on by the likes of the Daily Mail et al) nevertheless enjoy reminding us that waiting until our 30s to try to conceive can greatly reduce our chances.
However, there could be another – more surprising – benefit of delaying motherhood that's worth thinking about the next time you find yourself stressing out about your own fertility. Women who have babies in their 30s can end up living longer, according to a new study published in the Journal of Public Health this week.
Researchers from the University of Coimbra in Portugal collected and analysed birth and life expectancy data from countries across Europe, including the UK, the Mail On Sunday reported. By comparing the life expectancies of mothers at age 65 and the age at which they had children, they found that women who had babies later in life were likely to live longer than those who conceived in their teens and 20s.
"As the age of pregnancy increases, so does the life expectancy of the women at 65. In other words, the older the women are at birth, the longer they live," the researchers wrote. "Women who give birth later tend to live longer, and the genes that allow for late pregnancy benefit female life span."
Unfortunately, the study didn't give reasons as to why women who conceive in later life may live longer, and it could be another classic case of ‘correlation does not imply causation’. Fertility expert Lord Winston told the Mail On Sunday that it could simply be because women who have babies later are more likely to be well-off, educated and lead healthier lives already.
He added: "They could find it easier to conceive later in life because of social circumstances, and it is well-known that people who have a higher level of education are usually in a higher income bracket and have greater longevity because they can afford to lead healthier lifestyles."