When’s The Right Time To Start A Family?

There’s no hard and fast rule on when the right time to start a family may be. But science offers us some tips when it comes to fertility factors.

It’s a well-known fact that in recent decades more women are starting their families later in life. Whether that is due to lifestyle, career, fertility, or personal choice, currently in New Zealand more women give birth between the ages 30 to 34 than at any other age.

Back in the 70’s

In 1971, for every 1,000 women in New Zealand in their 20s, there were approximately 211 births. In 2021, the rate has dropped to less than a quarter of that figure – at just 47 births per 1,000 women. For women in their 30s, the rate has increased slightly from 102 births per 1,000 women in 1971 to 108 in 2021. So we’re not just starting later, we are also having less children. In the 35 to 39 age range, the number of births has seen a 50% rise since 1971 (from 41 to 63 in 2021).

Fertility rates new zealand

The right time to start a family?

In 2015, a study by Oxford researchers considered the best age to start a family and reported that this mainly depended on how many children a couple wished to have. Unsurprisingly, the desire for more children means starting earlier before age-related fertility issues may have an adverse effect. The study published in the Oxford University Press journal, Human Reproduction, concluded:

The maximum female age at which couples should start a family for a 90% chance of realising the desired family size is: 32 for one child, 27 for two children and 23 for three children, without the assistance of IVF. With assistance, the ages increase to 35 for one child, 31 for two children and 28 for three children.

Of course, this is just the result of averages and there are many factors beyond a woman’s age that determine fertility rates. Research shows that infertility among couples is around 40 percent related to the female, 40 percent related to the male, and 20 percent unexplained. Requests for fertility assessments reportedly increased 20 per cent between 2013 and 2016.

Just as there can be a range of fertility factors, the right time to start a family may also be affected by personal circumstances, living environment, financial stability and other influences. So, although science may have suggested answers to the question, “when is the right time to start a family?”, it is obviously never that simple!

How old were you when you started your family? Or if you delayed starting a family, what were the reasons? Join the discussion in the comments below.

A side note: Fewer teenagers giving birth

After a high of 69 babies per 1,000 women aged 15-19 in New Zealand in 1972, birth rates for teenage mums have almost continuously fallen to around 10 births per 1,000 teens in 2021. Despite this, New Zealand still has one of the highest rates among OECD countries.

Teenage pregnancies new zealand


This article was written by Julie Scanlon, Editor for Kidspot New Zealand.


  1. Kjgee 23/05/2018 at 11:33 am

    Certainly an interesting read. I wanted to be done having children by the time I turned 30 (I turn 30 later this year). And I think (there’s always that think haha) I am done now with my 4 kids. I had my first at 18, and then the other 3 throughout my 20s with my youngest being 5 months old now. I have noticed a huge difference in my ability to stay up all night with the newborn , run around with the toddler etc now compared to my first two kids at aged 20. Obviously some of it has to do with having 4 kids but some is just age, and my body is tired. My most recent pregnancy was rough and my body is definitely aging and not made to grow and birth babies forever! I am pleased I started having children young even if it did mean feeling quite isolated as it was not what my group of friends were doing. Now that my oldest is as School, age between mums doesn’t really matter – we may not be the same age but we are at the same stage with School aged children. Interestingly some of my good School mum friends are the same age as my mum! There is a definite shift in the age of mums.

  2. Alezandra 16/05/2018 at 8:56 pm

    There’s always never a right time. When we first got married, we wanted to concentrate on our careers then when we wanted to start one, it took a while never realising that it was harder for us. Hopefully for people thinking of this and planning, it’s good to consider it early on and not wait too long.

  3. SarahBlair 11/05/2018 at 11:47 pm

    I got pregnant with my first child when I was 16, I had my last at 36. It was so much easier, physically, dealing with the sleepless nights, chasing a toddler, and all of the other physical parts of parenthood when I was younger, at 26 I had a newborn, a 2 year old, a 3 year old and an 9 year old. At 36 I had a newborn, and a 2 year old plus the older 4. The two youngest are so much harder than the 4 older ones were 10 years earlier, Im getting old and have much less energy, having kids younger is easier!!

  4. Mands1980 08/05/2018 at 7:50 pm

    I was 27 when I had my first, 28 with my second and 30 with my third it was very busy times but like they say the younger you are the more fertile. It’s still very busy in our house. Im glad we did what we did as it is tiring looking after the kids but also rewarding. A lot of people are leaving children until after they have worked at around late 30s then are having trouble getting pregnant these days though I know a lot that still have no children.

  5. Shorrty4life1 27/04/2018 at 4:27 pm

    Interesting read. I was 21 when I gave birth to my first child. I found that if I do it younger I am still young to run after them and go for a swing and slide with them and have the energy to run around before the body starts testing us. I now am 28 and have two children. I know alot of people who were at school with me are waiting still to have kids until they are financially set up. But when you have kids who needs money when you have so much love and fun.

  6. Bevik1971 24/04/2018 at 4:36 pm

    I was 21 when I got pregnant with my now 24 year old son (turned 22 a month after giving birth), so young but not really young. I raised him alone unfortunately but he’s an awesome human 🙂 I was pretty much single until I turned 37 then I met my now partner who had no kids (same age as me). We decided to try for a baby at the age of 38 – it took 3 years to conceive naturally and we had our gorgeous daughter at 41 which was very lucky. I then fell pregnant at the age of 44 (not really trying!) but unfortunately we miscarried, probably due to age of eggs etc. Now at 46 there is nothing I would love more than to have another, however the chances are about 1% even though I am still ovulating and having regular periods etc. We are very blessed to have our daughter though 🙂

  7. MuddledUpMolly 24/04/2018 at 2:32 pm

    I was 29 when we fell pregnant with our daughter and we would like to have one more. It does make me wary that I am getting older and we need to start thinking about our next child a bit more seriously this year.

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