by Virginia B. Hargrove
Being in your twenties doesn't necessarily mean you're living a care-free lifestyle.
It's pretty common that most 20-something women are starting their careers, solidifying or starting new relationships, and in some cases, thinking about and having babies.
The twenties are also a time where you might have fewer financial resources and less personal life experience. The plus side is your boundless energy and bubbling enthusiasm that balance it out.
You're healthier and probably more physically fit than your older colleagues. This could mean that you'll have an easier pregnancy and birth (but we can't guarantee that fact).
These are your most fertile years. You have a 20 to 30 percent chance each month of getting pregnant when you have unprotected intercourse.
Once you conceive, your pregnancy is more apt to be uneventful than during any other stage of your life.
Your risk of developing gestational diabetes is low enough that the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists recommends you might not need laboratory testing to screen for GD if you meet other criteria.
How you feel about your pregnancy depends on other things going on in your life.
Looking inward: At any age, refocusing your life priorities can be difficult. Some younger moms feel cheated. Ann Douglas, author of "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books says, "Some people need to sow their wild oats, to go to Europe, to stay out late dancing -- and that's not terribly compatible with morning sickness and fatigue."
Others are prepared for a baby and anxious to get started, like Carrie, a Seattle-area mom. "If you're not ready for a baby, you're not, and please wait. But lots of us are ready -- now!"
Relationships: Is your relationship prepared for the demands of a baby? A new baby can be stressful on a marriage. Dr. Sarah Levoy, founder of The Prepared Mom says you can minimize that stress by talking about each other's expectations before the baby arrives. She suggests practical exercises to clarify these issues and create action plans to improve family organization and cohesion.
Employment: You're just starting a career and now you're faced with how to juggle work and family. Do you forge ahead and try to do both, or delay your career or education?
"Some women who postpone job advancement to have a baby feel ambivalent or resentful at first," says Diane Ross Glazer, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in Woodland Hills, California.
The miscarriage rate during these years is about 9.5 percent, the lowest it will ever be. Your baby's less likely to be born with Down syndrome or other chromosomal abnormalities.
If you're 20 to 24, you do have a slightly higher risk of pre-eclampsia or having a low birth-weight baby. Reduce this risk by eating well, taking a prenatal vitamin, and getting your prenatal care started early.
You still face a low risk of complications such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia and hypertension when you're pregnant in your late twenties.
Healthy lifestyle choices throughout your pregnancy help you have an easier delivery and get your body back in shape quickly.
In terms of long-term health, if you begin conceiving in your twenties, you might be at a decreased risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer, according to some studies.