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Advanced Parental Age: Can It Lead To Developmental Delays In Kids?

More couples are starting their family at a later age. Know the risk associated with advanced parental age.

In the recent decades, there has been an enormous shift in the thought process of parenthood among young couples as they intend to focus more on self-development and career-oriented opportunities. Increased life expectancy, advanced age of marriage, various socio-economic factors and overall change in role of women in society has led couples to start their family at a later age. Also, IT revolution has created better employment opportunities than before for both men and women, hence the prime focus is more on career growth while ignoring their personal and marital life. This shift in the thinking process of both men and women has resulted in advanced parental age in which the average age of men and women is 40 and 35 years respectively.

Since ages, we have reflected on stereotypical norms in society, in which the concept of parental age was defined in terms of couples expected to start their family between the ages of 18 to 23, so they can contribute to a healthy lifestyle for their children.

The impact of advanced parental age

Many studies and research conducted on advanced parental age have highlighted reduced fertility and live term births in natural conception and perinatal risks of childbearing specifically related to sperm count and quality degradation. Also, the sedentary lifestyle, work-related stress and metabolic changes have led to chronic health problems like - high blood pressure, diabetes, complications in conceiving, pregnancy loss before 20 weeks and birth defects among newborn babies.

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Furthermore, during the last few decades, many changes have happened globally due to rapid advancements in technology, globalization and influence of different cultures. These changes have also impacted the Indian population significantly, especially changes in lifestyle, food habits, customs and practices, increased community awareness of healthcare, etc. One of the aspects that has changed among millennials is the thinking process of having a delayed family life, resulting in advanced parental age as millennials' immediate focus is on career growth, as such factors that affect their personal and married life are ignored. However, by the time they realize the importance of having a family, the age of both men and women will be in their late 30s during which reproduction issues will be prevalent. Which means increasing maternal and paternal age have negative influences on overall child development and growth.

Advanced parental age (both maternal and paternal) can result in birth defects, low birth weight, increased risk of premature birth. All these factors can lead to developmental issues in children in later life.

Declining rate of fertility

An aspect that needs to be noted is the declining trend of fertility rate globally since the last five decades i.e., 4.74 (births per woman) in 1970 to 2.42 in 2022 a decrease of 2.32 equivalent to 50 per cent. Similarly, the fertility rate in India has come down to 2.15 in 2022 from 5.59 in 1970 (decline of 3.44 equivalent to 62 per cent).

This shows people have started delaying childbearing to prioritize other aspects of life. While the time to have a child is an entirely personal choice, aspiring parents should be aware of the potential consequences this may have.

What is the right time to be a parent?

There is no one right number, parenting at any age has its own benefits and challenges. If you are young parents, you will be inexperienced in some aspects of life, but will have more energy to cope with those issues. If you are older parents, you will have life experiences which will have made you calmer and more mature to deal with parenthood.

You should try to choose a time which is neither too early nor too late. Having a kid at either end will present some downsides. No matter the age you choose, being aware of potential challenges, will help you be better prepared.

The article is contributed by Dr. Sameera S Rao, Consultant - Paediatrician and Neonatologist, Motherhood Hospital, Banashankari, Bangalore.

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