According to the National Vital Statistics System, part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, first birth rates for women aged 35+ rose in nearly all US states from 2000 to 2012.
In 2012 there were more than 9 times as many first births to women aged 35 years and older than there were 4 decades earlier. My translation: It’s likely that you know a first time mom over 35, even if she hasn’t revealed her age to you.
With such an impressive and mind-blowing increase, you would think the popular misconceptions have disappeared or at least changed throughout the years. But they haven’t.
Let’s look at 4 of the most popular myths:
1- MYTH: Women in their 40s can only get pregnant by medical reproduction intervention.
FACT: According to Netmums Getting Pregnant study, twice as many women over 40 have surprise pregnancies than younger women in their teens and 20s.
Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard said: ‘UK women spend tens of millions each year on getting pregnant with a high pressure fertility industry designed to worry them into spending even more – but it seems we are more fertile than we realise.”
One of my favorite quotes about giving birth after 40 comes from cyber-sister Catherine who publishes Pregnancy Stories by Age. Catherine has collected over thousands of stories of births over 40. She says, “At least 90% of the stories pre-date the Donor Egg era of 1990, or were a complete surprise to the over 44 year old mom-to-be. How can it be so rare, so impossible, such a miracle – when I can find so many?”
2-MYTH: Babies born to mothers over 35 are unhealthy.
FACT: Most healthy women who get pregnant after age 35 and even into their 40s have healthy babies.
I remember the woman as clearly as if it happened yesterday. She told others in the hair salon that her daughter wanted to wait until her late 30s to have a baby. The disapproval showed on her face as she said, “I told her that she must want the doctors to have to use a crowbar to pull the baby out!”
Whether she was concerned about her daughter or the future baby’s health or in the percentage who believes you shouldn’t have a baby a day pass age 25, I do not know. I do know she didn’t approve of her daughter’s decision.
Dr. Glade B. Curtis, author of Your Pregnancy After 35, states, “most women who become pregnant in their 30s and 40s are in good health. Pre-existing medical conditions are the most indicator of a woman’s well-being during pregnancy and the health of her developing baby. Today, many health care professionals gauge pregnancy risk by a pregnant woman’s health status, not her age.”
3- MYTH: Women who give birth after 35 were too focused on their careers to give birth earlier.
FACT: Study conducted by researcher Kristy Budds showed delayed motherhood is more a matter of circumstance rather than choice as portrayed by the media.
I will admit that I’m more defensive about this assumption than any other. I married for the first time years after 35, conceived naturally and gave birth twice to healthy children. I enjoyed my career but I wasn’t so caught up in a high-flying career that it stopped my desire for marriage and children.
Researcher Kristy Budds of the University of Huddersfield (UK) found motherhood after 35 is more a matter of circumstance rather than choice as portrayed by the media. In a paper, presented to the British Psychology Society at St. Andrew’s University, the UK psychologist stated:
When women give birth in their late thirties or in their forties, it is not necessarily the result of a lifestyle choice — putting off motherhood for career reasons or from a desire to “have it all”. Nor should they be accused of selfishness or taking undue health risks. For a lot of women it isn’t a selfish choice but is based around careful decisions, careful negotiations and life circumstances.
4-MYTH: Women who give birth after 35 will die before their children reach adulthood.
FACT: A 2014 study concurred with previous research which showed women who give birth in their late 30s and 40s lived longer than those who did not.
According to the July 7, 2014 online issue of Forbes, a study conducted by Thomas Perls, director of the New England Centenarian Study, found women who are able to have children after the age of 33 have a greater chance of living to age 95 than women who had their last child before the age of 30.
“The natural ability to have a child at an older age likely indicates that a woman’s reproductive system is aging slowly, and therefore so is the rest of her body,” said Perl.
While I do not know the participants of this study, I do know one of our neighbors who gave birth to her 11th or 12th child in her 40s lived until she was 100+! My grandfather lived until he was 101 and was dancing at his 100th birthday party!
Although I reference this study, I know that only God determines when a life begins and ends.
I do not tell women to wait until age 35 to conceive. I do provide support during their season of having a baby if they are over 35 and in their 40s. I’m a firm believer in different seasons in everyone’s life. The key is never allowing anyone (except God) to determine where you should be in your personal or professional season of life, even if you have to deal with misconceptions.