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Real reason for a pregnant pause

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Saturday, March 22, 2008 | 0 comments

Photo by Parsons, pregnant at 40
Few women who delay having babies are career-mad singletons, says Lucy Atkins
Celebrity mothers such as Marcia Cross, the 45-year-old star of Desperate Housewives who last year gave birth to twins, may live in a rarefied world of hi-tech fertility treatments and round-the-clock nannies, but they are hardly alone in their desire to foil the biological clock.

New Government figures show a steep rise in the number of British women having babies in their 40s. Conceptions in this age group are rising faster than in any other demographic, despite doctors' grim warnings about the increased risk of anything from infertility, miscarriage, maternal diabetes and caesarean sections to stillbirth and Downs Syndrome. It all sounds distinctly alarming. So why are we leaving motherhood so late?

The stereotyped first-time mother in her 40s is a well-heeled singleton who has put breeding "on hold" in order to achieve world domination on the career front. This turns out to be spurious. Lindsey Harris, creator of the website , says: "In my experience, postponing motherhood has nothing to do with careers and everything to do with waiting for Mr Right." A website survey of more than 2,000 women found that a "lack of a suitable partner earlier on" was the main reason women waited until the 11th hour to have a baby.

This rings true for Caroline Frost, 45, a full-time mother from Cambridge. "I was 39 when I met Graham and all my friends and family had written me off. I never expected to be a mother." Others simply do not feel ready to reproduce during their peak fertility years. "In my 20s, I had a steady partner but I knew I couldn't be the mother I wanted to be," says Tracey Parsons, 41, a local government officer from Sutton Coldfield. "I wanted to travel and go out and have fun. And I wanted everything to be perfect before I had a baby - perfect house, perfect partner, enough money."
By 35, perfection remained elusive but, she says: "My desire for a baby really started to kick in." An on-off relationship, then a miscarriage at the age of 38, caused "panic", she says. "I realised that it might be too late." Many women, like Parsons, get a big shock in their late 30s when they realise that fertility is not a given any more. Some are luckier than others.

"I was extremely worried about my chances of conception," says Frost. "But I got pregnant within a few months both times. I had my first baby at 41 and my second at 43. I see my boys as an incredible, unexpected gift." Most older mothers are hyper-aware of the possible downsides. Midwife Zita West, whose clients include the actress Cate Blanchett and the Countess of Wessex, sees many women in their 40s who are struggling with fertility issues or other complications.

"Most are very aware that the miscarriage rate is very high - almost 50 per cent in your 40s - and that it can be hard to conceive," she says. "Many have decided to go it alone. They have never met the right man and they know this is their last chance. Some never expected to want a baby at this age but have met a new partner." Others will try anything, including egg donation, for a last shot at motherhood.

When Parsons became pregnant with her 40th birthday looming, she was thrilled though anxious. Despite receiving "nothing but reassurance and encouragement" from the medical profession, she could not bring herself to count her chickens. "I couldn't let myself believe, until I actually brought Charlotte home, that I would really end up with a baby." If older motherhood has its downsides - not least the awful possibility that your girth may never resume its former glory - it has advantages too.

As another website for older parents states, mothers in their 40s are "too busy to have a midlife crisis or worry about the menopause". They may also have a more straightforward appreciation of their role. "For me, the only downside is that I will not be able to give Charlotte a brother and sister," says Parsons, who is now a single mother. "But I've done all my travelling, partying, studying; I have the home, the car, the job. My life is about my daughter now and I love it. Every day I look at her and tell myself how unbelievably lucky I am."
# For information and networking, see


Image: Zita West's Guide to Getting Pregnant, by Zita West. Publisher: Thorsons Publishers (August 1, 2005)-Zita West's Guide to Getting Pregnant
by Zita West

-- A pioneer in the field of fertility, Zita West's programme is invaluable for couples trying to conceive.

Harley Street's most popular fertility expert, and favourite consultant to celebrity clients, guides the reader through a process of vital physical and mental preparation.

The book is for every couple trying to conceive and has fascinating advice taken from Zita's 20 years of experience as midwife and 7 years as an acupuncturist.

It provides a structured, easy-to-follow step-by-step programme, complete with case studies and and enormously detailed questionnaire.

The guide includes details on:
• when and how often to have sex
• what can prevent fertilization and conception
• everything you need to know about sperm and ovulation
• nutrition, supplements and herbs
• complementary therapies such as acupressure, lymphatic massage and hypnotherapy
• how to overcome stress and other emotional blocks to pregnancy
• PCOS, endometriosis and other health issues
• tests and procedures if there is a problem
• and much much more.

Image: Buy Now on Amazon.comPaperback: 400 pages
Click to order/for more info: Zita West's Guide to Getting Pregnant

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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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