Women now may delay parenthood for a number of reasons, ranging from financial pressures to the desire to get their career on a good footing before becoming a mother.
It’s a big change to previous generations. In the 1920s, the most common ages to have babies were between 20 and 24, and 25 and 29, and that remained the same in the ’50s and the ’80s. But since the ’80s, the age of new mums has been rising, and now the median age for Australian mothers is 30.6 years, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
However, this is still increasing, with the number of mothers aged 40-44 tripling in the past 30 years. Nowadays, falling pregnant after 35 is achievable through a variety of different avenues including, IVF, a donor, or surrogacy (if a natural birth is not possible).
At the other end of the spectrum, of course, there are mothers who have pushed the use of medical advances to the very limit. In 2016, a 62-year-old Tasmania woman became Australia’s oldest mother, after giving birth to a daughter conceived through IVF with her 78-year-old partner.
Another mother, Anthea Nicholas, made headlines in 2011, after giving birth to her son, (who is now six), at the age of 50, having fallen pregnant naturally. Burns told news.com.au, “We were advised by both our GP and our obstetrician to terminate the pregnancy. We had to give it some serious consideration, but [husband] Pete was stronger than I was and felt really blessed”.
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And these Aussies are relatively young compared to the world’s oldest mother, Indian Daljinder Kauer, who’s believed to be aged at least 70.
Even if an older woman is able to fall pregnant without medical assistance, however, the risk of miscarriage, stillborn or chromosomal abnormalities, such as Down syndrome are more common.
The ability to have children naturally begins to decline from the age of 25. The decline is gradual, but from a woman’s mid-30s it declines rapidly. And the risk to mothers rises as well – a new study published in The Lancet showed that mothers over the age of 35 made up 40 per cent of all maternal deaths.
The majority of reproductive clinics refuse treatment for women by the time they reach their 50s, the average age at which menopause begins.
In some instances, though the children of an older parent might benefit from their decision to wait. The person might be more content to be a parent than those who have their children at an age where they’d prefer to be partying, working or travelling. An older parent may well have more wisdom to impart and, if retired, more time to spend with their child.
On the flipside, however, an older parent may have less energy to keep up with a toddler, nor the patience required to deal with sleepless nights and tantrums (though, of course, it depends on one’s individual fitness and temperament). And an older parent will almost certainly become infirm and die while their child is younger than that of a child of average-age parents.
So, how old is too old to have a child? Is it better to have your family in your 20s or 30s, or is waiting until your 40s and even your 50s fine? Could you cope with a new baby now? What do you think about people who become new parents in their 60s?