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Pregnancy among over-40s reaches 'record high'

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Sunday, March 02, 2008 | 0 comments

The number of women becoming pregnant over the age of 40 has reached a "record high", according to official figures released today.

The Office for National Statistics found that the overall conception rate in England and Wales rose by nearly 3% between 2005 and 2006.

There were an estimated 866,800 conceptions in 2006, compared with 841,800 the previous year.

But the rate for women aged 40 and over showed an even faster increase, rising 6% from 11.5 per 1,000 women aged 40 to 44 in 2005 to 12.2 the following year.

Julie Bentley, chief executive of the Family Planning Association, said the data reflected changes in the choices available to women.

"The figures illustrate that the traditional approach of 'get married young and have children' isn't the reality for many British women.

"Improved education and career opportunities, different lifestyle choices and expectations mean their lives may take a different path."

Figures compiled by the ONS on births show that the number of women having children over the age of 40 has increased by just under 50% in the past decade.

There were 23,706 live births in England and Wales to women aged 40 and over in 2006 compared with just 12,103 in 1996.

As might be expected, there has also been an increase in older fathers, with 75,000 babies born to fathers over 40 in 2004 – one in 10 of all children born that year.

Bentley added: "Every woman has to make her own decision about the right time to have a baby.

"As long as women are aware that their fertility naturally declines over the age of 35, and that it will probably take a bit longer to get pregnant, late motherhood is a valid choice."

Lindsey Harris, founder of the website, said research indicated that women with better educational qualifications were more likely to postpone having children to pursue their careers.

She said: "By and large, the majority of women I speak to either didn't meet the right man until later in life or they are on their second serious relationship and the two of them want to have a baby together."

Harris said that publicity about well-known women who chose to have children later, such as Cherie Blair, made it seem an option for others.

She added: "I don't think older fathers get as much stick as older mothers. It's seen as a manly thing to do – a case of 'Look how virile he is at his age' – rather than looking at all the risks associated with it.

"Some women who have already reared a family wish to have another child with a new partner, and some simply didn't meet the 'right' partner until later in life."

As in previous years, nearly four-fifths of all conceptions resulted in a birth or births.

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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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