Pregnancy in Your Twenties

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Women get pregnant at many different times in their lives. Many of these pregnancies occur when women are in their 20s. This is considered to be one of the healthiest periods of time to get pregnant. It also happens to coincide with a time when many people are getting married, finding relationships, and settling down—often making it the perfect time for a pregnancy.

How Many Women Have Babies in Their 20s?

Another piece of good news is that having a baby in your 20s is pretty common.

While the numbers are declining in the birth rate overall—and for ages 20 to 24—the rate is up slightly in the late 20s, defined as 25 to 29. So you are likely to find people of a similar age in your childbirth classes, and in play groups. This gives you another thing in common as you share tales of your pregnancy and lives.

Getting Pregnant in Your 20s

One of the biggest bonuses to trying to conceive in your 20s is that you are at the peak of your fertility. This is the most fertile time period in your life. This is also true if your partner is of similar age. While there are certainly people in their 20s who suffer from infertility, the numbers are lower. If you have been actively trying to get pregnant for over a year with well-timed intercourse and no birth control, then it is time to seek the help of a reproductive endocrinologist or fertility doctor.

Staying Pregnant in Your 20s

Miscarriage is a concern of nearly every person when it comes to pregnancy.

Another benefit of pregnancy at this age is that you will have a lower risk of miscarriage. This means that you are more likely to stay pregnant when you become pregnant. This is for a variety of reasons including better health and a lower risk of genetic complications.

The Body Changes in Your 20s

There are numerous changes that your body goes through in pregnancy.

One of the biggest benefits to a pregnancy in your 20s is that most people are still relatively healthy at this point in their lives. You and your partner are probably not as likely to be dealing with pregnancy complicating chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and other medical issues.

If you are fit and already exercising, this will also help you feel more comfortable in your pregnancy. You will be able to continue to exercise unless you have a few complications. Your doctor or midwife would tell you if you needed to stop. There are a few exercises that are not great in pregnancy, such as downhill skiing and horseback riding. Even if you're a competitive athlete, you can continue to participate in your regular levels of fitness with only minor adjustments based on how you are feeling.

Being fit and active will help you eliminate some of the more common aches and pains in pregnancy. We know that women who are active have fewer reports of back aches and general unwellness in pregnancy. So, if you aren’t active, it’s time to start walking or swimming, or even doing yoga to get in shape. The benefits last beyond pregnancy as well.

The Emotional Changes of Pregnancy in Your 20s

The normal stages of pregnancy emotions are no different in your 20s.

There can be a sense of instability because everything may feel like it is changing—your life, your job, your housing, and now a new baby. This bothers some women more than others. One thing that we know is that pregnancy is a time of change. Every family will handle this change differently, but it can be a stressful time, no matter what your age.

Relationships with other women who are pregnant or who have had babies before, particularly if they are around your age, is always helpful. You may be the first in your friend group to have a baby, or you could be one of many due dates right around the same time.

Either way, a good group of people to lean on for support is helpful for you and your partner. If you are the first in your friend group to get pregnant, consider finding additional friends from play groups, early childbirth classes, or other parent filled activities.

Financial Stability With Pregnancy in Your 20s

One of the complaints about having a baby earlier in life is that is that you are less financially stable. This can certainly be true, particularly in your earlier 20s, but it is not true for everyone. Financial stability is also defined differently. There is certainly a difference between living in poverty or being homeless, as opposed to living in an apartment versus living in a house.

Some people worry that they are fresh out of college or trade school, which may mean they are paying for student loans. They may not yet have a house that they want to purchase. Other families are less concerned with having the "right" place to live while their child is younger, assuming that will come with time.

The Risks of Pregnancy in Your 20s

In your 20s, the normal progression of pregnancy will typically proceed without any issues. This doesn’t mean that you have no risk of complications at all, simply that you'll have a lower risk of most complications. As you get older, there are some pregnancy complications that are simply more likely, usually due to the increased risk that you're dealing with a chronic disease while pregnant.

Your doctor or midwife will sit down with you and take a complete medical history. Combined with a physical exam and potentially some lab work, you will together decide what your best course of action is for this pregnancy. They will be able to explain what specific risk factors you have for this pregnancy and what you can do to help lower the odds of a certain problem occurring. This is an ongoing process and not a one time conversation.

Genetic Issues of Pregnancy in Your 20s

Genetic testing was once thought to be best used by women over 35 having a baby. This testing is still used in that manner. However, now we have a lot of genetic screening tests that can be used with much less risk than genetic testing, such as a simple blood draw from mom versus an amniocentesis.

Being in your 20s means that you have less of a risk of having a baby with Down syndrome. A woman who is 20 has the risk of about one in two thousand of having a baby with Down syndrome, compared to a woman at 30 whose risk is one in 900, or one in 100 at age 40. So, as you can see, the increased rate as you age is substantial.

No matter how old you are, it is always possible to have a baby with a genetic complication. While this number is certainly lower for mothers in their 20s (who have similarly aged partners), it does not mean that the rate is zero. Therefore, your doctor or midwife will offer you genetic screening.

Genetic screening will give you an idea if you are at a normal risk of genetic complications for your age, or if you are at a higher or lower risk for a genetic anomaly in your baby. If you are at a higher risk based on the genetic screening, then you may be offered additional testing, like the amniocentesis for further studies and a diagnosis.

Labor and Birth in Your 20s

When you are more physically fit and healthy, your chances of labor being faster and less complicated goes up. This is good news in your 20s. Women who give birth in their 20s will generally have an easier time of it than older mothers. Some of this is due to your physical health, like the absence of chronic diseases. There is also the component of mothers in their 20s, statistically speaking, simply being more physically fit.

The manner in which you give birth can also be affected by your age. For example, the cesarean rate climbs the older you get. So if you are under age 25, your risk of having a cesarean birth was only 26.4 percent. From 25 to 29, the cesarean rate is 30.4 percent, both under the national average of 32 percent. If you look at what is called the low risk cesarean rate, called the NTSV cesarean rate, you see that low risk women aged 20 to 24 have a 22.1 percent risk of having a cesarean, compared to a low risk woman aged 25 to 29 having a risk of 25.7 percent risk of a cesarean delivery.

Baby’s Health After Pregnancy in Your 20s

Everyone wants a healthy baby. Your 20s is certainly a good time, numbers wise, to have a baby, assuming all the other factors are good. There are some potential risks that are increased for those who are at the lower ends of their 20s. A mother who is 20 to 24 years old has a slightly higher chance of having a baby who is preterm or low birth weight. Though these two complications drop for mothers from 25 to 29 years old, and don’t begin to rise again until after 30.

The Good News About Pregnancy in Your 20s

There are many reasons to have a baby in your 20s. You tend to be healthier, and have great outcomes when you give birth. There is certainly the possibility of stability issues, but that is not something that will absolutely go away, whereas your fertility and health are more likely to decline. The best choice is the one that is right for your and your family.

Sources:

Martin JA, Hamilton BE, Osterman MJK, et al. Births: Final data for 2015. National vital statistics report; vol 66, no 1. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017.

NDSS. Undated. Incidences and maternal age. National Down Syndrome Society. http://www.ndss.org/Down-Syndrome/What-Is-Down-Syndrome/

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