Women warned of age limit for becoming a mother

A debate surrounding the mental health of the children of older mothers and the safety of labor for older women comes as record numbers of women over 45 give birth across Europe.

Lydia Morrish
Lydia Morrish NewsMavens, Europe
Women warned of age limit for becoming a mother - NewsMavens
Baby. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

More women than ever are having babies over the age of 40. While this is a symbol of many positive social, economical and cultural advances – career-focused women can choose to have children later in life, fertility healthcare is more advanced than 20 years ago, women have more choice in their lives – some are warning that there are impactful downsides to the surge of older mothers.

Fertility doctors at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Denver warned that increasing numbers of older mothers will result in children not being able to cope with caring for frail, elderly parents. They also fear that they will not be able to deal with parents dying while they are young.

In 2017, the average age of first-time mothers in the UK was 30.4 years and the average age of both mothers and fathers is continuing to rise, according to Office for National Statistics data.

The older mother trend can be found across Europe, with more women over 40 giving birth year on year in most countries in both western and eastern Europe, according to Eurostat data.

Details from the story:

  • More than 2200 women aged over 45 gave birth in the UK in 2016. In 2001, the number of women over the age of 45 having babies was 760.
  • Julianne Zweifel, a clinical psychologist at University of Wisconsin, Madison, told the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Denver that a woman's drive to be a mother is "so strong they don’t think about the problems their child will face until after the child is born."
  • Experts at the conference reportedly even said it could be "traumatizing" for children to have parents in their 50s.
  • Many older mothers and their families disagree. Sarah Crowley, who was 50 when she had a child, told BBC Radio 4 that being an older mother has been "fabulous".
  • In the UK, there is no age limit on women seeking fertility treatment.
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