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).
Ages 20 to 24
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.
Possible Risks to Your Baby
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.
Ages 25 to 29
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.
Looking Inward: Babies impact the pre-existing relationships between friends like a bulldozer. These changes don't have to leave you feeling lonely. You can smooth out the bumps in your changing friendships and can cultivate a few new friends.
Relationships: In your late twenties, your relationship might be in better shape to handle the changes that parenthood brings.
Employment: While you're more likely to be established in your work life, pregnancy does leaves its trail in the professional field. Research shows that women who interrupt their career for a pregnancy make less money than women without children.
Possible Risks to Your Baby
The miscarriage rate is 10 percent, only slightly higher than in your early twenties. At age 25, your chances of delivering a baby with a chromosomal abnormality is still very low.
In your twenties "everything baby" seems to come naturally kind of like looking good in low-cut jeans.
Are you in this age group and expecting? Tell us what you think is best or worst about being pregnant now.
Heffner, L. (2004, November 4) "Advanced Maternal Age — How Old Is Too Old?" New England Journal of Medicine. Downloaded on March 1, 2012 from www.nejm.org.
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