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Reproduction revolution: Methuselah moms

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Thursday, August 16, 2007 | 0 comments

AT FIFTY-FIVE years old, Angelina Calabro gave birth to her one and only child, a much-loved daughter called Carmelina. What sets Calabro apart from the handful of other women who give birth this late in life is that she did not set out to get pregnant using reproductive technology. She conceived entirely naturally and unexpectedly.

"We were incredulous," she told Australian newspaper The Age "I turned around to look behind me when the doctor told me, I asked him if he was talking to me." Carmelina is now 11 years old and her parents are retired.

It is much publicised stories like this that give women in their fifth, sixth or even seventh decade the idea that it might not be too late to have children after all. In rich countries, many women today don't even start to think about having children until well into their thirties, if then. It seems that now we are in control of our reproductive capabilities, education and careers are the priority for many women.

Another factor could be that men are baulking at the prospect of having babies. Without a partner, relatively few women are prepared to go it alone. Whatever the reasons, many women have become the living embodiment of that 1980s T-shirt: "Oh my god! I forgot to have a baby!"

An estimated 1 in 5 British women in their mid-forties are now childless either through choice or because of a lack of opportunity, twice as many as 15 years ago. The trends are similar in the US and Australia. Meanwhile, women who are having children are leaving it later and later, with the average age of first-time mothers now standing at 27 in the UK, up from 24 in 1970.

And this average does not tell the whole story. The most dramatic changes have been in older age groups. In the US, the number of women giving birth for the first time between age 35 and 39 rose by 36 per cent between 1991 and 2001. For women aged 40 to 44, there was a staggering 70 per cent increase.

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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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