My mother regularly told myself and my sisters that we should wait until we were 30 to get married. (Ignoring the fact that she married our father in her mid-20s and remains married to him to this day.) But marital bliss contradictions aside: Her thought process made sense. If we delayed having families until our 30s we’d be done with college, well into our careers and “ideally” more financially stable than we were directly after college.

And for a lot of upwardly mobile men and women, this also makes sense. Last year for the first time in America the number of unmarried was almost equal to the number of people married, according the U.S. Census. While the news caused histrionics in some traditionalists, it’s a mark of our modern lives that most men and women don’t feel ready for marriage or families in their 20s. Most people, growing up in the age of divorce, out-of-wedlock births, financial insecurity and other issues delay marriage.

Not “never marry.” But delay marriage. Even the much obsessed over unmarried black woman eventually gets married. Adjusted for age, among black women 35 and older, the number of never-married drops to 25 percent, meaning 75 percent of black women (and in turn, typically a bunch of unmarried black men) eventually get hitched.

But this does mean some of us will spend our prime “baby making” years single.

And while waiting for your family makes sense as women who start their families in their late 30s/early 40s tend to be more educated, more financially stable, happier with themselves and in healthier relationships, there’s on little hitch. A woman’s fertility rate still drops dramatically during your mid-30s.

While you’re a modern woman, your uterus may as well still be fitted in a loin cloth, living in the Stone Age.

If you’re serious about being a first-time mother you need to learn the truth about fertility. While science has improved and our world is striving towards equality, your womb is still on the same biological schedule as it was back when people got married as teenagers. Don’t let the female celebrities over 40 baby boom fool you. Complications, fertility drugs, debates over surrogacy are all the reality for many who delay having children – including the uteri of the rich and famous. But it’s not just your womb you have to worry about. The man of your dreams might be shooting blanks thanks to stress, the modern Western diet, radiation from his cell phone, radiation from his laptop, not getting regular check-ups with a doctor and his lack of exercise.

Many women who find trouble getting pregnant are often encouraged to get their husbands tested for infertility first, as a low or non-existent sperm count is a lot easier and quicker to diagnose than the myriad of problems that could make it hard for a woman to get pregnant.

The result is that for every Fertile Myrtle there, pushing out kids in defiance of a looming menopause, there are a lot of folks weighing fertility treatments versus surrogacy versus adoption.

And if you can afford those options, the more power to you. But none of them are typically covered by your insurance.

  • Shona

    Well one thing that needs to be considered when comparing our generation to previous ones is that our foremothers tended to have more children. Sure, women got married earlier and started having children sooner. And many of them had 4 or more children as well (all of my Grandparents had 6 or more siblings). We have much better health care and different expectations in regards to family size today. I am not saying that older women giving birth are not faced with more complications. But I think it’s a stretch to say it’s a difficult thing to do. I’m in my 30s with no children; my father’s sister had a baby 3 years ago at age 31. Her mother (my Grandmother) had her at 39. I have friends 5 years older than me (I’m 32) who are just now having their first child. None of these women engaged in expensive fertility treatments. They might have had to try a little harder to get pregnant, but I never heard them speak about struggles with infertility (although I do have friends in their 20s who dealt with it).

    So don’t underestimate mother nature. Most women can bear children quite readily outside the 20-year time window from age 15 to 35. And if you only want a few children anyway, how many years do you need?

  • Shona

    “…my father’s sister had a baby 3 years ago at age 31.”

    I meant to say “41″….sorry!

  • African Mami

    Oh mi gosh, Perveted Alchemist where are you?! I need you to makes me a motorcycle riding baby, coz j-philly gon have us eating only grass only, and I wants my baby to have all them damn nutrients! Please respond, I don’t want my eggs all dried up before you respond….I’m quickly approaching “fertility drug methods of making a baby years! “

  • brown

    I know it’s true for some that having a baby when you’re older is harder, but certainly not all. My mother got pregnant (without fertility help, her pregnancy was a complete surprise to my dad and me) with my brother when she was 39 and had him at 40, with no complications throughout her pregnancy nor any at his birth.

  • Kacey

    Everyone is now going to come forth with an “I know someone who had a baby after 40″ story. The point of this article is not to say that it is IMPOSSIBLE, it is to warn that for the majority of women, after 35 (and certainly after 40) the chances are IMPROBABLE. If you hope to have children and are looking at these celebrities (as well as these far-fetched examples among your family/friends) as proof that you have unlimited time, you are PROBABLY doing yourself a disservice.

  • O’Phylia

    Seeing as I’m not having kids, this ain’t my problem.
    [/child life free forever]

  • Perverted Alchemist

    Here I am, African Mami, LOL!!!!

    I started working in a new city well over a year ago, and I was shocked to find the number of women that I worked with that decided to have children much later on in life. One woman I work with had her first child at 36 (she’s 42 now), while the other one had her first child at 32 (she’s 41 now). Being that I’m in the South- where women can give birth to a child as early as 16 (no lie!!!!), imagine my shock when I saw these two women who waited until they were well into their 30′s to become a mother. In March of last year, I recently ran into a woman who had her first child at 38- and she was 45 when I talked to her! This is all new to me, LMAO!!!

  • LemonNLime

    Woot, woot! I hear that!

  • African Mami

    @ PA

    Thank you for your timely response. Now pick the time, place and date of our ahem, “meeting” or should I call it rendezvous (sp?)

  • Marissa Dawson

    I’m not looking at celebrities. I’m looking at my mother. She had me, her youngest child at 36. I am 26. So i got a few years to finish my schooling meet mr right and crank out four kids.If i hit 30 and he aint here, I’ll put my eggs on ice and my trust in God lol.

  • Cynika

    menstrual ages r much younger than they used to be. many girls r getting their periods at 9 and 10 these days (im 23 & i was one of them & i also know other girls that did) & even middle school girls r having babies these days. w this being said, i wonder if the age of menopause will also decrease by 3-5yrs as well? i like this article tho

  • iQgraphics

    Babies just aren’t on my, like, list of things to do so ummmm…
    Neither is um, like, marriage… so um… yeah, no.

  • Shona

    Well if we all know of women who had babies when they were older, wouldn’t it be a stretch to consider it “improbable”. Medical statistics tend to focus in on the worse case scenario. Like when the doctor comes in to tell the family of a cancer patient “Well, they only have 6 weeks to live”…it is not uncommon at all for a person to beat the grim odds presented to them by medical professionals.

    Fertility is variable from person to person…regardless of age. The main issue that I wanted to point out is that women years ago may of had a lower median age for when they bore their first child; but family sizes were also larger then as well. If you want 6 children, then yes, you need to start before you are 35 years old. But that is not the desire of the majority of women out there. And waiting until you are 35 to have a baby isn’t a ticket to spinsterhood.

  • Perverted Alchemist

    Let’s rock and roll, baby!!!! *in typical frat boy voice*

  • apple

    i can’t freeze my eggs?

  • jazzyphile

    Here’s the hitch when you have a baby after 40: You’ll be 58 -60 plus by the time the kiddie is off to college. That’s about the time your job is trying to get rid of you!

  • Makeda7

    People need to start making their work instead of having and worrying about a job. On the other hand, infertility might be for women who lack melanin. People of the African diaspora are super reproducers, but there are some things that can slow down the process of it. Things such as getting flu shots and not knowing what the hell is really going into our bodies. It’s organizations out there who are trying to keep us from reproducing. And how many people do you know who are more financially stable etc in their 30′s and 40′s? Doesn’t mean things can’t fall out of plan. If people want to wait to have children, there’s no problem in that, but saying you should wait until a certain age isn’t for everyone. Some people are mentally prepared for that. Just a thought…

  • binks

    Nah I think I stick to adoption because I already know my baby making plans is almost slim to none

  • Trisha

    Now this is one situation in my lineage that we can’t determine if it is a blessing or a curse. From reading this article, I believe it is a blessing. I come from an extensive family of women giving birth to their last child over 40. As a matter of fact we call it the Campbell Curse. Here is the list:

    Mother: 43
    Grandmother: 44
    Great-Grandmother: 42
    Aunt: 42
    Aunt: 43
    Cousin: 45
    Cousin: 45
    Cousin: 43
    Cousin: 45

    The way it is looking for me. It might be 43 (that’s my cut-off) since I have been prophesied to have twins. Sheesh..we got to hurry up ;)!

  • 2cents

    I’m glad to see the conversation about having kids later in life. Sometimes I think in our community we are more accepting of teen pregnancy than of those who wait until there 30s (or 40s). I often hear black people talk about “that’s for white folks”, but to me it makes perfect sense. It does seem like some cosmic joke that the age that women are the most fertile isn’t the time they should have a kid.

  • Trey

    Its like…I want a baby…and a family, but everyone…EVERYONE (my own parents included) say that having kids in this day and age is a terrible idea. They are expensive, they limit your lifestyle, they limit your career…all these negatives. Any Pros to having a baby (especially a black baby) in the US…any?!?

  • I only need one example on not waiting too long to have kids…

    I’m sorry…I only need one example of why I should not wait that long. Eventhough you can wait until your in your 40s..I don’t agree that that’s the ideal age to wait. If it happens in your 40s and your lucky to conceive and have a healthly child I think that’s a blessing. However…my cousin struggled to have kids in her 40s…she even had IVF and almost died from having to go through IVF treatment. After I saw what she went through I told myself I never want to bank on waiting that long. I’m still in my 30s and I would pray that God would bless me with the opportunity to have them before I’m over the age of 40 because I don’t want to go through what I saw her go through.

  • Zane Wilhite

    Im grateful for the post.Much thanks again. Keep writing.

  • http://Facebook Sherron

    i know a woman who had her 1st child at age 36 and then she had TWINS the next year at age 37 (all conceived naturally) of course this woman is black and MOST black women do NOT have “fertility” problems in spite of age due to a melanin-dominant body (& reproductive system) that whole biological clock theory really only applies to white women, white women are at the peak of their fertility during their teen years, black women (and other melanin-dominant women of color) are still fertile well into our 30s and 40s

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