Journal Article

Advanced maternal age and offspring outcomes: reproductive aging and counterbalancing period trends

Barclay, K., Myrskylä, M.

Population and Development Review, 42:1, 69-94 (2016)



Women are having children later in the developed world. The mean age at first birth has increased in each of the 23 OECD countries since 1970, now averaging 28, and advanced-age fertility has also been increasing. Advanced maternal age is associated with increased risk of poor perinatal outcomes, as well as an increased risk of mortality and cancer in offsprings’ adulthood. The research documenting these negative outcomes, however, neglects the potential benefits of being born at a later date. For a prospective parent, delaying parenthood means that the child is born in a later birth cohort. This is beneficial, as for many important outcomes from health to educational attainment, secular trends are positive. We illustrate this general principle using data from Sweden, and show that the macro level contextual trends outweigh the individual risk factors. As a result, fertility postponement even beyond age 40 is positively associated with long-term offspring outcomes.