[war]With the baby-booming 1950s a half-century behind them, more and more women are waiting to have children. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the pregnancy rate for mid-to-late 30-year-old-women has almost doubled since 1978, setting a record high. Modern women are left in a game of tug of war, career on one end and children on the other.
Deborah Smith-Powell, MSU family ecology professor, said the reason women are waiting to have children is multi-faceted. “Women have the ability to access better employment, higher education and they are becoming pickier with mate selection,” Smith-Powell said. “Also, there are time issues. Women are lodged into careers and it’s difficult to give up that extra income.”
However, Smith-Powell said that more than anything, women are waiting because they now know they are able to have children more safely even past their twenties and thirties. “We used to think it was medically unsafe,” Smith-Powell said. “Now women have the choice to not be pregnant.”
Clawson resident Joyce Davis, 75, said when she had her first child in 1951, society was completely different”I was only 21,” Davis said. “However, it was normal because being a woman, our main objective was to have a family and raise our kids. It was our job and it was just a natural thing.”
Davis said the pressure to have children at a young age was immense. “If you weren’t married and had a child by 23, you were considered an old maid,” Davis said. Today women still feel pressure by a ticking biological clock. Lansing resident Courtney Byam, 27, said she thinks the pressures today are just as heavy, though the age at which you are considered “too old” has increased. “I’m only 27 and people tell me I should settle down because I’m getting too old,” Byam said. “I would much rather be at a point of stability. I want to be financially and emotionally prepared first.”
Jessica Gauthier, MSU senior and merchandise management and marketing major, agreed with Byam and said women should not feel pressured to have children in their 20s. “Women today have the chance to get an education and start a career,” Gauthier said. “I think it’s alright to wait to have kids until later in life.”
Smith-Powell said that while women should wait until they’re ready, they need to be more aware of the health risks involved if they’re going to wait to have children. Currently, the March of Dimes said that the chance of the child having birth defects including Down syndrome increases with the mother’s age. At age 25, a woman has about a 1-in-2500 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome, while a woman at age 35 has a 1-in-400 chance.
Also, women who have their first child after the age of 35 have a greater chance of developing high blood pressure and diabetes. While there are both benefits of settling down with a career and risks of birth defects when having a child later in life, Smith-Powell said the most important thing is to be sure you are ready for the responsibility, no matter your age.
Yet, ready or not, it seems that society is pressuring women at both ends. On one side women are told to that they should be well-educated and have a career and on the other they are still expected to be wives and mothers. Many modern women have mastered the art of doing both, often with little recogntion, but many are still struggling with the waiting game. However, most mothers like Davis would say that all the hard work and double-duty is worth it. “It’s the greatest job anyone could have,” Davis said. “Of all the careers, there’s nothing in this world more rewarding than having a child.”

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