Why are more women waiting until 30 to have a child?

Jan 25, 2013

The new baby boomers: young mothers eclipsed by thirty-somethings like Kate Middleton

IT'S official. Nearly half of the babies born in England and Wales are to women aged 30 or older, leading to what the Daily Mail describes as an "eclipse of the young mother".

The Office for National Statistics, which released the figures yesterday, said infants will soon be more likely to have a mother over 35 than younger than 25.

The trend is illustrated by the pregnancies of the Duchess of Cambridge and actress Sienna Miller, both 31, two "thirty-something baby boomers", The Times notes. Christina Odone of the Daily Telegraph contrasts Kate with Princess Diana, who gave birth when she was 22, saying the Duchess "exudes happiness, self-confidence, and stability".

Kate, she says, is "having her baby when she's not too young to enjoy it". Also, "the offspring of older mothers are convinced of their own importance. This may be beaten out of them later, at school or work, but those first years are the most formative ones."

Mother and entrepreneur Nadia Finer, 34, told the Daily Mail she had no option but to wait to have her four-year-old son Jacob. "After studying languages at the University of Birmingham, I had a high-pressure job in an international marketing business. I left in my mid-20s having launched my own company," she said. "I'd also landed a deal to write a book advising ambitious women how to kick-start their careers."

The ONS believes the phenomenon could be down to parents who are delaying children due to their career like Nadia, or due to concerns over housing, jobs or unstable relationships.

Mumsnet co-founder Justine Roberts, meanwhile, pointed out many parents are trying to "save up" to afford children, whereas University of Southampton's Professor Máire Ní Bhrolcháin told The Times her research showed the main reason for delayed motherhood was people wishing to stay on in education or training.

The last time so many children were born to mothers over 30 was in 1946 at the beginning of the post-war baby boom.

Whatever the reasons for the surge in thirty-something pregnancies, few are mourning the change. A 2011 study in the Population and Development Review shows older parents across the world tend to be happier.

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Interestingly later motherhood may select for longer life spans over time. The main fuel of this change is greater University participation with the changes it educes (no pun intended). The big impact will be grandparents who are unable to offer the support the first generation of late mothers have enjoyed.

There perhaps isn't enough debate on the age for child raising ( there's never a good economic moment ) - have a child at 20 and when they are 20 your 40 - do it at 40 are you're 60.

Also I wonder how many women are aware of the sharp drop off in fertility after 35 ? Or the impact of STDs on fertility ? Should be added to the curriculum so people can make informed choices.