Delaying pregnancy can carry consequences

By Judy Fortin
April 14,2008


ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — Kelli Heath just turned 30 and she’s spending more and more time deflecting questions from family and friends about when she plans to get pregnant.

“A lot of women have timelines,” Heath said. “I don’t.”

Heath, a full-time event planner in Atlanta, Georgia, married her husband, Scott, two years ago. They want to have children one day, but not right away. “Our priority as a couple is ‘us’ right now,” she said.

More and more couples like the Heaths are waiting to expand their families until the woman is well into her 30s or older. Work, travel and the desire to save money are some of the reasons cited for the delay in having a baby.

Obstetrician and gynecologist Michael Randell cautioned that such delays may come with consequences. “There is a lot of anxiety among patients,” Randell said. “I have 20-year-olds coming to me concerned whether or not they can get pregnant.”

In reality, experts say, women over 35 struggle the most to get pregnant. As a woman ages, the quality of her eggs tends to decline and she may not ovulate as frequently.

“Statistics are against you,” Randell said. “You only have a 15 percent chance of conceiving each month. About 85 percent of people will conceive in the first year of trying.”

“The reason why it is more difficult to get pregnant these days is more people are waiting longer.”

He also blamed monthly timing. “It’s one of the most shocking things that I see, when patients really don’t know that they only have a small window of opportunity to get pregnant each month. The optimal time of the month for ovulation is 14 days after the first day of your last menstrual period.”

Randell tells his patients that certain lifestyle changes may help improve a woman’s fertility and get her body ready long before she is prepared to get pregnant.

“If you’re smoking, that can affect fertility both for the male and female; so can using drugs,” he said.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists suggests trying to lose weight if you are overweight or obese, eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

Taking a folic acid supplement before conception is important to prevent birth defects.

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