More women than ever are choosing to become older mums. But what are the risks?
When actress Rachel Weisz recently announced she was pregnant with husband Daniel Craig’s baby, few people batted an eyelid — despite the fact that Rachel is 48.
But it’s no wonder really, as statistics show that while teen pregnancies have dropped dramatically, the rate of babies born to women aged 45 and over has risen by more than a third.
There are thought to be lots of reasons why women are waiting to get pregnant. But what are the risks of having a baby later in life?
Mandy Forrester, head of quality and standards at the Royal College of Midwives, says that although it’s every woman’s right to choose when she has a baby, there are health issues that older mums need to consider.
'Typically women in their early 40s require more care throughout their pregnancy,’ she says. ‘Issues such as obesity and rising levels of diabetes mean that midwives are working harder than ever to provide the highest level of safe care, in often very over-stretched circumstances.’
The staff at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists agree.
Professor Lesley Regan says: ‘The age at which women are having their first baby has increased over the past few decades, and this trend is unlikely to be reversed.
‘We know that female fertility starts to decline gradually from the late 20s and more rapidly from the mid 30s onwards.
‘As well as potentially taking longer to get pregnant, later maternity can involve a greater risk of miscarriage, a more complicated labour, and medical intervention at the birth.’
So, given the risks, why are so many women choosing to have babies later in life?
Katherine O’Brien, spokesperson and head of policy at the British Pregnancy Advisory Service says: ‘It is due to a host of factors, many of which are a cause for celebration — we are able to control our fertility and plan our families, and play a full role in education, the workplace and society.
‘Women also view motherhood as one of life’s greatest responsibilities, one that has to be carefully planned and prepared for.
Our research suggests that financial concerns — such as the rising cost of childcare and difficulties getting a foot on the property ladder — alongside finding the right person to share this important journey with, are key obstacles for many women who would like to start a family earlier.’
But if you have chosen to have a baby later in life, is it harder? Are you as energetic in your 40s as you would be in your 20s?
Katherine O’Brien says: ‘Having a child presents challenges for new parents at any age, and before embarking on this significant responsibility, potential parents will weigh up all the physical, emotional and financial demands.
‘Women are not universally better suited to having a child when they are younger — it’s all about the individual and what is right for her and her partner.’
One study done in Denmark found that the mid 30s upwards are the best years to have a baby, with older mothers raising children with fewer social, emotional and behavioural problems.
But there is no universally perfect time to become a mum.
And in the future, as with Rachel Weisz, it looks like we’ll be seeing many new mums in their late 40s and even 50s.
Edited by Julie Cook