What’s the perfect time to have a baby? Whether your clock started ticking early or you’re feeling a time crunch at 40, deciding when to have a baby is never simple. Vibha Singh, looks at the scientific, economic and social implications of the most important decision of a woman’s life…
Sanchita Sarkar, educationist gave birth to her first baby at the age of 39. As a young ambitious woman, she got married at the age of 38 due to the family pressure. “At every family wedding or function, initially the question was when I am getting married and after marriage the next obvious question: When are you having a baby? Throughout my 20s and even in 30s, I was very focused on building my career and on travelling. Having a baby in my mid-30s was best for me because it allowed me to feel settled in my marriage and my career before starting a family. Besides, I’m a lot more mature and sure of myself now, and I felt it was the right time to get pregnant. But definitely there were many physical issues involved.”More and more Indian women these days are putting off having kids to focus on our careers, more than compared to figures in Western countries. But there have been many questions raised on health issues related to delayed pregnancy and ticking of the female biological clock.
What is biological clock?
According to gynaecologist Dr Shashi Mehra, “The main issue is that there should be no confusion with the social phenomenon referred to as the ‘biological clock’. It is simply a term people use to describe a fall in fertility associated with increasing age. Women at 45 also conceive safely but the majority of the moms-to-be at my clinic are aged between 28 and 35.” Meanwhile, she explains, medically, the best age to get pregnant is ‘between the age of 20 and 35’. This is because between these ages a woman is most fertile and least likely to have other complications. Consultant gynaecologist Dr Alpana Ghosh says, “I have very few patients in 20s as most of the girls get married between the age of 26 and 29. Then they take time to settle down. I have patients who have come to me post-35 and they said they never thought about pregnancy before. So they are told to go through the diagnostic check-ups which includes test for chromosomal abnormalities within the first three months of the pregnancy. There are double and triple marker tests and the women above 35 years go through a counselling process where she is informed about the risks of genetic abnormalities in the baby and even stillbirths.”
It is a generic notion that life is incomplete without a child. And the only reason to have child before the time lapse could be that after the age of 35, there are a lot of complications during pregnancy and delivery. Dr Sangeeta Pikale, obstetrician and gynecologist is of the opinion, “Nature has safety window period to procreate and deliver safely. As you age, the complications increase and there may be diagnostic services available but why should we enter that risk zone. Science may allow cloning. But it is only research. Does a child want his mother to be of his grandmother age? Even the adoption act defines the combined age of both parents to be 90. When an adopted child has the right to have young parents then why a natural child is being denied this privilege.” Also, one cannot think of pregnancy as a choice of convenience. “I will become mother when things are good. Does a child also decide that he would take care of his parents when it is convenient with him? In some reports the average life expectancy of Mumbai people is 58.4 so if you conceive at the age of 40 then do you want at the age of 20 in prime of youth your child to be alone,” avers Pikale
An urban phenomenon
Dr Jaya Goyal, senior consultant, Technical Support Group, State Project Directorate, Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA), informs, “We all think fertility and age are inversely related. The statement is also true that the reproductive age of a woman has a limit and as age passes, the fertility level comes down and risk increases. However, the medical fraternity has a vested interest to advice that age doesn’t matter and that medical advancements can make a woman conceive anytime. This helps them maximise on their investments done on their education and practise on infertility treatments and equipment.” This is the basis of fertility technology companies like egg and sperm banks who vouch to freeze your eggs when you are in 20s and 30s when the quality is superior as compared to when you age and then use them when you want to actually get pregnant in 40s or 50s.
Go for it when you are mentally prepared
Experts thus are of the opinion that one should go for a pregnancy or even adoption when woman and her life partner both are in a state of mind to have a baby which is a full-time responsibility. They should plan for it and that would be practically the right age for a woman to bear a child. Sadia Saeed Raval, chief psychologist and founder, Inner Space says, “There are both pros and cons of delaying pregnancy. But the main factor is the inner readiness to become a parent. When a woman is in her 20s she wants to travel and focus on her career and if she becomes a mother at that age and regrets her decision every second, she would not be able to do justice to the newborn. At the age of 40 the priorities change as career wise she is satisfied but her energy quotient is reduced. At this age physically many factors arise. Her anxiety goes up. As bringing up a child is physically and mentally really taxing. ”
What the law says?
One can take a legal course if she is being pressurised to have a child but it depends upon individual conditions. In the court of law the circumstances which are governed by social, physical and economical factors are considered. Anupriya Deshmukh, advocate, says, “If a woman is career-oriented then she herself should be strong enough to be convinced about not having a child as that does affect her career. Once she becomes a mother, she has to be very much balanced in taking her decision about her child’s day to day care, as well as about her job and career. If one is able to keep a proper balance between the two, then it’s ok. But mostly it becomes very difficult to manage both in a justified manner, at the same time so one should have a balanced approach before taking any decision.”