More American women are holding off pregnancy, as reflected by the steadily increasing average age of first-time mothers.
According to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the age of first-time moms increased 1.4 years from 2000 to 2014, a climb from an average of 24.9 to 26.3 years old.
Lead author and National Center for Health Statistics (NHCS) demographer T.J. Mathews, however, noted that they have witnessed "sharper increased since 2009" even though the first-birth age continues to inch up.
"The largest impact has been the decline in first births to women under 20. There has also been an impact of older women having births," Mathews said, pertaining to the drop in teen births and more women delaying being pregnant.
All states as well as the District of Columbia demonstrated delays in first-time childbearing since 2000, with Washington, D.C. logging the highest increase in age (3.4 years) followed by Oregon (2.1 years).
Potential factors that make some women delay motherhood include economic considerations, a greater interest in higher education, and greater career choices, Mathews suggested.
The report specified that first-time teen births dipped 42 percent since 2000, from about one in four to one in seven. At the same time, first births to women ages 30 to 34 increased 28 percent, while the same in ages 35 and above increased 23 percent.
The prevailing trend in teen births could probably be due to "less sex and more contraception," explained Bill Albert from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
More gynecologists today have started recommending long-acting birth control forms such as IUDs to teens, and there has been bigger government investment in sex education programs.
In addition, teen abortion is not really a contributor to decreasing teen birth rates possible - that rate has also dropped since the 1990s.
Dr. Jennifer Wu of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City lauded the drop in teen pregnancy rates, as this kind of pregnancy is mostly unplanned. "[T]een pregnancies can have poor outcomes, and most teenagers aren't ready to have a baby," she said.
And what are the likely effects of first-time births generally occurring in older age brackets?
Higher-than-average pregnancy complication risks, according to maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. Priya Rajan from Northwestern University. "Sometimes there is a belief that there's no limit to when people can bear children," she said, warning of greater pregnancy risks as one approaches age 40.
These risks, according to Dr. Wu, include pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes and transferring genetic defects to the offspring.
Photo: Bayu Aditya | Flickr