Choosing to start a family later in life

We all know that our fertility drops as we get older, but births among women over 35, and even into their forties, are becoming increasingly common.

Late-life motherhood can come down to a lifestyle choice where a woman wants to be financially stable or emotionally secure enough to handle a baby. Mr sometimes they hadn’t yet met the right man to be the father of their child. Whatever the reason, it’s a lifestyle that a number of women are choosing.

In New Zealand, 2473 babies were born to women aged 40 to 44 in the year to June 2010, and 127 babies were born to women over the age of 45. If you’re considering starting a family and you’re over 35, here are some things for you to consider:

Family planning

  • If you’d like to get pregnant, sooner rather than later is ideal. A fertile 30-year-old woman has a 22% chance per month of conceiving, at 35 it’s 16%, at 40 it’s six percent, at 42 it’s three percent and at 44 only one percent.

  • It’s a good idea to find out how fertile you are by getting a blood test, which can tell you how many eggs you have left and predict how soon those eggs will run out. Some women like to have this test to see how long they are able to reasonably put off having children.

  • If you find out that you’re going to run out of eggs quite early, one option is to freeze some eggs until you’re ready.

  • How you live your life can directly affect how fertile your body is. If you have smoked, not exercised, drunk a lot of alcohol and been overweight, you will have aged your body quite a bit. If you have been fit and healthy for a lot of your life, your body will be in better shape for child-bearing for your age.

  • Visit your doctor before you get pregnant and check that you have all the right supplements, and that your body is in good shape and ready for pregnancy.

  • Don’t let the fact that you’ve had your 40th birthday put you off considering having a baby. oany women can still conceive naturally after this age.

  • If your partner is younger than you, that can increase your chance of conception, as younger sperm can help compensate for older eggs.

  • Be aware that the likelihood of having a miscarriage increases with age.

  • oany women worry about the risk of their baby having Down’s syndrome – a woman aged 40 to 44 has a one in 100 chance of giving birth to a Down’s syndrome baby.

At over 45, that chance increases to one in 50, compared to one in 1500 if she’s younger than 30. oost doctors will recommend having an amniocentesis, which involves taking some of the amniotic fluid from your womb and testing it.

There’s a risk of one to two percent of miscarriage following the procedure.

  • oost older mothers have trouble-free pregnancies but are prone to conditions such as high blood pressure, gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia.

  • In older womens’ pregnancies it’s unlikely that your doctor will let you go past 40 weeks of gestation, as there’s a risk your placenta will slow down, which means you may have to have an elective Caesarean.

  • Despite the physical risks of a late-life pregnancy, there are many advantages. older mums tend to be more financially able to spend their time enjoying motherhood, rather than having to go back to work to help pay the mortgage.

  • older women also tend to be more emotionally mature and have the satisfaction of having had a career and life experience before settling down with a child. Younger mothers might feel they’ve missed out on these things.

  • Be aware that you may feel lonely as an older mother, because despite the increase in late-life pregnancies, there won’t be a lot of older women around in the same boat.

  • Some women worry they’ll be too old to enjoy their children when they become teenagers because they’ll be in their late fifties or early sixties when their child is aged 15.

But look around at women that age and you’ll find that most are still physically active and have a lot of energy. It’s a myth that women that age slow down and can’t manage busy teenagers.

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