Choosing to have a baby is one of the biggest and most exciting life decisions you and your partner can make. But understanding when it’s the right time can be difficult. Perhaps you want to have a baby but don’t feel like you’re quite ready, or you might be unsure whether you want children at all.
While deciding on the right time to have a baby is purely down to you, we’ve provided some information that could help you to understand when that time is.
You’re doing it for the right reasons
It’s important to sit down with your partner and have a frank discussion about why you want to have a baby. If it’s because you’re scared of the ‘biological clock’ running out, which we’ll come to later, or because your parents want grandchildren or you feel like you have to have children, you may not be going into it for the right reasons.
However, if you both agree that it’s because you want to have a baby and begin building your own family, then it could be a sign that the time is right. The idea of parenting may scare you a little, but it should also excite you. Excitement is a good indicator that you’re truly ready, whereas anxiety may be a sign to put it off a little longer and keep using contraception.
You feel financially stable
Having a baby can impact your finances. In fact, it’s thought that raising a child to the age of 18 could cost around £202,000 - that’s £11,250 per year. While lots of people with children don’t have a spare £11k hanging around, you should consider your financial situation and think about whether it’s likely to be stable for the foreseeable future. For instance, you could ask yourself:
- Do I have a steady job?
- Do my partner and I have regular incomes?
- Could we get by on maternity pay?
- What would happen if one of us had to take a pay cut or move jobs?
While you shouldn’t let your financial situation determine your decision, it’s an important factor to consider.
Remember, there are always cost cutting methods you can use when having a baby, such as buying necessities second-hand or avoiding pricey, non-essential items. There may also be some government support that you can get should you choose to start a family. Depending on your situation, this might include Universal Credit, Income Support, Child Tax Credit and the one-off £500 as part of the Sure Start scheme.
You’re mentally in a good place
While your physical health is important for growing a baby, you should also think about your mental health and whether you’re in the right frame of mind to have children.
Children are a big change in your life, and while children bring love and joy to a family, there can also be new challenges. Think about how pregnancy could affect your stress levels and how getting ready for a baby could make them higher, too.
If you’re not in the right mental space, then it could be worth putting your baby plans on hold until you feel ready for the journey. Alternatively, there are some things you can do to reduce your stress, such as joining a support group, undertaking mindfulness techniques, exercising regularly, etc.
Lots of couples have children when they have mental health issues, but it’s still something to be considered. You may also wish to think ahead to how you would handle such stress. If you do have mental health issues and wish to pursue a family, speak to a healthcare professional who will be able to advise on the support that is available to you.
You’re at childbearing age
You may have heard of the ‘biological clock’ that, metaphorically, refers to a woman’s fertility ‘running out’ as she gets older. This is because there is an optimum scientific age range for getting pregnant.
Women can get pregnant from when they have their first menstrual period to when they experience the menopause. On average, this is between the ages of 12 and 51. Between these two age ranges, your fertility will peak and then begin to decline as the number and quality of your eggs decreases .
Every woman is born with all of her eggs, unlike men who can continually create new sperm, and they number around two million . By the time a woman reaches puberty, she will have around 300,000 to 500,000 eggs left, and by the age of 37, approximately 25,000 remain. Fertility is said, therefore, to decrease from around the age of 32. This isn’t to say you can’t get pregnant, but women in their late 30s onwards may find it takes a bit longer. From the age of 37, fertility begins to decline more quickly.
The ‘best’ age to have a baby from a biological point of view is still debated. Some publications say that 20 to 30 years old is optimum to reduce the risks associated with the pregnancy, but others say this can be increased to up to 35 years.
It’s worth considering, however, that just because you’re over the age of 35 doesn’t mean you can’t start a family. Modern treatments, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilisation (IVF) mean older couples have the chance to make a family, too.
Age is just one factor, and ultimately there are a lot of other factors involved too. It’s as important to consider how emotionally ready you are to start a family, as well as your financial situation. These things will be different for every couple.
You just want to
For some couples, it’s as simple as that - you just want to have children and you’ll know when the time is right for you. You may both be ready for the next stage in your life, feeling like you’ve accomplished the other things you wanted to do first, like focusing on your career, buying a house, getting married, seeing the world, etc.
Ultimately, it’s problematic for a third party to tell you when the right time to have children is. It’s a decision that is down to you and your partner, and there is no ‘right’ or ‘perfect’ time. Each woman and each couple will differ - some people want children young while others want time together as a couple before bringing a baby into the world. There’s no right or wrong answer, only what is best for you.