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The risks of delaying motherhood

Posted in: Women's Health 20 Mar, 2012

Women who choose to have children later in life face many difficulties which they are often aware of during pregnancy but one more burden has been added to the list, as a recent Norwegian study has shown that women who delay having children are also more likely to suffer from postnatal depression.

Research leader Silje Marie Haga, from the University of Oslo speculated that the reason behind it is that older women find it harder to be in situations which they can’t control after spending many years building careers and being the only person in charge of their lives.

According to the study, some of the older mothers found it harder to accept a failure to fulfill certain expectations and therefore were more susceptible to falling into bouts of depression shortly after the birth.

The number of women having children at 40 or older has almost tripled over the last 20 years from 9,336 in 1989 to 26,976 in 2009, yet the resources available to older mothers have not evolved quickly enough to catch up with the shift in society, meaning that many new mothers in their forties are at a disadvantage.

Teenage pregnancies are a hot topic of debate in political circles and there are many support systems in place for young women having children, yet women in their forties and fifties receive no such advice or help if they become pregnant. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) has warned that not having children before the age of 35 diminishes a woman’s chances of being able to get pregnant and makes her twice as likely to lose a baby than a younger mother.

Since 2009 the College has urged the NHS and Department of Health to make women more aware of the risks of having children over the age of 35, when fertility begins to decline, but no such awareness campaigns have been launched and the number of women in their forties facing complications with childbirth is still on the rise.

One of the main reasons why women are waiting longer before starting a family is a desire to build and maintain a career. Despite the legal obligation to maternity leave, very few companies offer flexible hours or day-care centres and with the cost of childcare in the UK being almost equivalent to an average full-time wage, it becomes impractical to keep a job after having a child.

Women are told to not have children before they are ready, to wait until they are in a solid relationship and a fulfilling career but then they are hit with the possibility of having waited too long. Perhaps the realisation that this is causing serious physical and emotional damage will prompt a change in the current attitude towards motherhood and encourage awareness and informed decisions by women regarding their bodies and the course of their lives.

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