Bridget Jones’s Diary author Helen Fielding summed up the relentless pressure of having a baby in her book: “You career girls. Can’t put it off forever. Tick-tock.”
And Helen Fielding is the voice of experience, she knows exactly what she’s talking about after becoming a first-time mum at the age of 46 herself.
We hear so much about the health risks and diminishing odds that come with women putting off having babies until they’re in their 40s, that the positive aspects of parenting in midlife get swept to one side.
Yet a lot of negative publicity surrounding midlife mums is purely based on the physical risks during pregnancy, rather than what comes next.
So it’s great when a rare piece of positive news comes along and puts midlife parenting in the spotlight for all the RIGHT reasons. The article resonated with me for many reasons and appealed to me on various levels.
It discusses how researchers at the Institute of Child Health, University College London and Birkbeck College, London, carried out a study that showed older mothers make better parents.
The Wellcome Foundation-funded study looked at 1,100 children born to women aged 40 and over, compared with 38,000 children born to younger women in Britain. The children’s ages ranged from nine months to five years.
It found that children of older mums were less likely to be in accidents or need hospital admission, and were no more at risk of obesity than younger mums.
According to the findings, older mothers appeared to have good parenting skills, were less impulsive, calmer and had more life experience that better equipped them for the role.
The children of older women were also more likely to have better emotional well-being as the likelihood of conflict between parent and child was found to decrease as maternal age increased.
With more women giving birth in midlife, the mum over 40 is a growing trend that isn’t going to go away. A host of celebrities are now giving birth in their 40s. Former Spice Girl Geri Horner being the latest to announce the safe arrival of her baby boy on Instagram, while superstar Janet Jackson also gave birth to a baby boy at 50 earlier this year.
This is great for women like me who have delayed motherhood and now parenting in my 40s. It also beats reading the same old tediously familiar story about how the more ‘mature mum’ is at greater risk of gestational diabetes and preeclampsia.
Although women need to know the risks associated with giving birth, before the introduction of reliable contraception, older mothers were common. Women were giving birth to their last child when they were grandmothers. In the Twenties, the average age a woman had her last child was 42.
The age of mothers has been rising in England and Wales since 1975, when a woman typically gave birth when she was 26.4. Mums in Britain are now on average the oldest in the world when they have their first baby.
While pregnancy related complications for mums who give birth later in life still need to be taken seriously, the study assures that all is not lost when women choose to become a mum at a time when they are ready and may actually give a better life to their children.