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Inspiring families with fresh thinking on parenting

Yano — Inspiring families with fresh thinking on parenting

The rise of the older mother

Posted on 31st January, 2013 | filed under Featured, Well Being

A grandmother holding her new grandchild

Melanie Goose finds out why so many women are waiting until their forties to have children, and wonders whether we should have routine fertility checks in our early thirties…

When my mum had me at 27 her hospital notes described her as a ‘geriatric mother’. Crazy, isn’t it? By those standards I must have been positively decrepit when I had my son in my late thirties. But there’s a lot to be said for older mums. We’ve got life experience and perhaps more patience. We’ve probably satisfied some of our career, travel and life goals and we may be financially secure. But should the next generation of mums be scheduling parenthood in the same way we’ve arranged our careers, mortgages and pensions?

Focusing on a career, not meeting the right person or not feeling ready are just some of the reasons why women delay having a child. But when it comes to family planning, we should be educating young women about fertility, not just STDs and contraception.

There’s been a baby boom over the past decade, and a big increase in the number of older mums. The number of women over 45 giving birth has trebled, and the number of 40-plus mums has jumped by more than 80 per cent. The Royal College of Midwives claims 688,120 babies were born in England in 2011 – the highest figure for 40 years – and early figures from the Office for National Statistics show the first half of 2012 is likely to be a record breaker.

This is a major concern for maternity support services. There is a national shortage of midwives, and older mothers can be a greater burden on the NHS with a higher risk of multiple births and babies having abnormalities or Down’s Syndrome. ‘Older women are more prone to diabetes or obesity,’ says Gail Johnson, RCM professional advisor for education. ‘And there’s the added risk of caesarian section plus a slight risk of developing hypertension or heart disease, which can be more treatable if you have an earlier pregnancy,’

IVF has helped a lot of older women to become mothers, but biologically our early twenties are still the best age for us to reproduce. After 35 women’s fertility declines dramatically; the chances success at 37 are roughly 25 per cent. By 38–40 it’s about 20 per cent and it nosedives to 6–10 per cent for women over 40. Which is why many IVF clinics use donor eggs for women in their forties. New technology is helping, too. ‘We implant the blastocyst [embryo] at day five and can test it for genetic or chromosome problems,’ says Dr Geetha Venkat, director of the Harley Street Fertility Clinic. ‘Women over 38 are more prone to miscarriage so pre-natal genetic screening allows us to choose the best embryo to implant and hopefully save the couple the misery of miscarriage.

‘It’s sensible for women in their early thirties to have their fertility tested. It reassures them that everything is working well, even if they are not at a point where they want to have a baby. If their egg count is low or there is another problem, we can discuss not delaying motherhood too long or freezing their eggs for later use.’

Nuria was 42 when she had IVF after suffering a miscarriage the year before. ‘We went to a clinic and they were asking for £150 for this test and that test,’ she says. ‘I felt like a lab rat. I didn’t understand what I would be going through and I felt out of control. When we changed to Dr Venkat’s clinic she explained everything and took the fear out of it. My IVF worked first time and we have a gorgeous baby girl who is seven months old.’

IVF isn’t only a difficult experience for women – many men feel the pressure, too. ‘I found providing a sperm sample embarrassing and it was dealt with in a clinical, impersonal way,’ says Gareth, 43. ‘We were lucky and it worked, but I would recommend our son has his fertility tested when he reaches 18.’

The expense is prohibitive for many, with costs starting at £3,000 per cycle plus drug and test fees on top. Some Primary Care Trusts will pay for one round of IVF, but it depends on where you live. Tom, 41, has three children, all of whom were conceived through IVF. ‘It should be cheaper,’ he says. ‘We were told by our GP that NHS treatment was not available for us. With only a one in four chance of success, you may have to try several times before it works.’

Being a parent isn’t just about conception and birth. Having a genetically related child is great, but there are other ways to be a mum or dad. Adoption and fostering can end the pain of infertility and the sadness it creates. They shouldn’t be seen as a last resort – they can be the light at the end of a very dark tunnel.

 

The rise of the older mother was posted on 31st January, 2013 by Melanie Goose under Featured, Well Being

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Melanie Goose

About the author: Melanie Goose

I grew up in a very female dominated household so I guess it’s no surprise I ended up working on women’s interest magazines. I dreamt of a creative career but was told ‘everyone wants to work in the media, it’s virtually impossible to get in’ by the careers advisor at school. That just made me more determined than ever to have the role I wanted.I went to college, did various jobs and got into modelling. I also contributed to a free style magazine and helped out at a local radio station. Then I landed my first magazine job as an editorial assistant on a new magazine launch called ‘Me Magazine’ and moved from Cheltenham to London two days before I started my new job. From there I worked on Inspirations where I became deputy features editor and then onto Bride & Groom magazine where I was promoted from Fashion Editor to Deputy Editor. All through my career I have loved styling fashion, homes and beauty shoots as well as writing and it’s been a thrill to combine my two passions. It’s also given me the chance to travel extensively and meet and work with some incredibly talented photographers, celebrities and professionals from every area of the creative world.My last full-time role was as Editor of Cosmopolitan Hair & Beauty magazine, a sister title to Cosmopolitan. It was a buzz to be at work there every day. I left Cosmo to go on probably the biggest adventure of my life in 2006 when I became a mum. I’ve taken my foot off the accelerator a little and become a ‘freelancer’ for the first time in 20 years. Now I’m one of the millions of women trying to perfect the work/life balance for the benefit of my family and also for myself.
  • Anya from Older Single Mum

    A great article, but what it doesn’t address is that for many of us, becoming a mother when we’re older was not intentional at all – it just ended up that way for us. I for one, was married but kept miscarrying and had my eldest at 41, my youngest at 45, no IVF. I divorced my husband while pregnant with my youngest. Having got to that late, I would have been turned down for adopting or fostering, but I agree that they are a fine option for many. It is something I would definitely have considered and a route I would have preferred to IVF actually,

  • e11ie5

    I agree with Anya there, being an older mother was never part of my plan it’s just the way it turned out and I was very blessed and privileged to become a mother for the first time at the truly ‘geriatric’ age of 47 1/2 … you’re so right it isn’t just about the birth and the conception although obviously as you take the IVF journey and if it succeeds that is where your focus lies. My daughter started crawling yesterday and our adventure really is beginning to accelerate. I absolutely agree about education as to fertility and valuing your own ‘sanctity’ if that doesn’t sound too odd for our daughters … I was actively encouraged by my academic (wonderful and also older) parents to have children later but I plan to make my daughter aware of the issues around declining fertility but not in such a way that she feels compelled to rush into the wrong relationship … it’s a narrow line to tread.

    We were lucky, very lucky, and worked very hard to do all we could to make sure I was as ready and fit and healthy as possible for IVF and then to preserve our ‘valuable’ ‘high risk’ pregnancy and were blessed with a perfect child at the end of it. I also valued the support of the medical profession, the scanning midwives, the doctors and health visitors … the only major problem I had in my pregnancy wasn’t to do with my age it was in the end to do with having been flung around in the back of a taxi when it was in an accident, the support we received during the terrifying dark days after that when we thought the baby had died inside me was tremendous. I have a wonderful support network, she has 8 Godparents, I’ve had alot of online support through my blog (which started out as a way of letting friends and family know how pregnancy was going but seems to have evolved into a resource for older parents as well now) and I have done all I can to ensure she is protected through life (in as far as I can) … anyway – off to crawling person proof the sitting room now … congratulations Melanie on taking your ‘giant step’ and on becoming a ‘freelancer’ it’s hard work but fun!!

  • e11ie5

    I agree with Anya there, being an older mother was never part of my plan it’s just the way it turned out and I was very blessed and privileged to become a mother for the first time at the truly ‘geriatric’ age of 47 1/2 … you’re so right it isn’t just about the birth and the conception although obviously as you take the IVF journey and if it succeeds that is where your focus lies. My daughter started crawling yesterday and our adventure really is beginning to accelerate. I absolutely agree about education as to fertility and valuing your own ‘sanctity’ if that doesn’t sound too odd for our daughters … I was actively encouraged by my academic (wonderful and also older) parents to have children later but I plan to make my daughter aware of the issues around declining fertility but not in such a way that she feels compelled to rush into the wrong relationship … it’s a narrow line to tread.

    We were lucky, very lucky, and worked very hard to do all we could to make sure I was as ready and fit and healthy as possible for IVF and then to preserve our ‘valuable’ ‘high risk’ pregnancy and were blessed with a perfect child at the end of it. I also valued the support of the medical profession, the scanning midwives, the doctors and health visitors … the only major problem I had in my pregnancy wasn’t to do with my age it was in the end to do with having been flung around in the back of a taxi when it was in an accident, the support we received during the terrifying dark days after that when we thought the baby had died inside me was tremendous. I have a wonderful support network, she has 8 Godparents, I’ve had alot of online support through my blog (which started out as a way of letting friends and family know how pregnancy was going but seems to have evolved into a resource for older parents as well now) and I have done all I can to ensure she is protected through life (in as far as I can) … anyway – off to crawling person proof the sitting room now … congratulations Melanie on taking your ‘giant step’ and on becoming a ‘freelancer’ it’s hard work but fun!!