A new report has shown that a fifth of all babies – that’s over 140,000 children – born in England and Wales last year were to mothers aged 35 and over.
The number of women waiting until middle age to have children has risen by a third in ten years, according to the National Office of Statistics.
There’s no doubt that these figures are a reflection of modern times, as first-time parents put careers ahead of starting their families or simply can’t afford to have children.
Indeed, the report detailed that out of the thousands of babies born to older mothers, some of the mums were almost 45 years old, and there were 89 babies born to women who were aged over 50.
But behind these figures comes a warning as many health professionals are concerned about the increased risks to both mother and baby when women put off motherhood. Pregnancy later in life is associated with more complications, and the need for specialised obstetric help.
Interestingly, what this report doesn’t go into is how many of these older mums might have had IVF or other fertility treatment to have their babies.
Because, unfortunately, natural fertility does decline once women reach the age of 30, and even more sharply from age 35 onwards.
What we don’t want is for women who read this report from the Office of National Statistics to think that it’s a given that they will have a successful pregnancy at an older age.
Success rates for fertility treatment such as IVF are largely better the younger you are when you have treatment. The longer you wait to have a family, the more your options are limited if you do need fertility treatment to conceive.
Age is the biggest barrier when it comes to fertility. And whilst modern science and assisted reproduction techniques have come a long way since the first IVF baby in the 1970’s, we can’t stop that biological clock.