Dear Julia, your biological clock is winding us up

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Indy Lifestyle Online
So You're convinced that motherhood has passed you by. "I wouldn't want to be an older mother. I'd hate to be a hideous embarrassment to my children when I picked them up from school", you moaned to one newspaper. "I feel time is running out, but I don't see the point in rushing into anything. If it happens, it would be a fantastic bonus but I have almost written it out of my mind. I'll stick with the dog." Spare us the self- pity Julia - you're a healthy 31-year-old so why act the ageing spinster? True, the wealth of negative facts can sometimes strip a girl of hope. They say a 40-year-old single woman is more likely to be killed by a terrorist than receive a proposal of marriage - but get realistic. Next month, at 32, you reach the peak of your fertility and it's a gradual - not dramatic - decline till 40. And let's face it, you're not going to be short of admirers over the next eight years willing to perform the duty. Still not convinced? Well here are five reasons to be cheerful:

One: Mothers over 35 are the fastest growing group of mothers in Britain, Australia and the US.

Two: Dr Julia Berryman, senior lecturer in psychology at Leicester University, carried out a study among mothers aged 35 plus and compared these findings with a group of mothers aged 20-29. Among the many positive findings; in the first year after birth, older mothers are far more likely to breast-feed than younger ones. During pregnancy older mothers tended to feel more positive about sex than younger women. There was no difference in levels of depression and sense of well-being between the two age groups - nor in levels of complication during labour and delivery. Dr Berryman observes: "The medical profession has an idea that older mothers are a problem group but it just isn't borne out in the research."

Three: The increased genetic risks of giving birth at a later age can seem dramatic, but it's important to remember that the actual risks are still small. Abnormality risk at delivery stands at 1 in 2,000 for 20- year-olds rising to 1 in 365 for 35-year-olds and a 1 per cent chance by the age of 40. Consultant obstetrician Keith Edmunds puts the risks into perspective. "By 40 the risk of Down's Syndrome is 1 in 100. But if you turn the figures around, it means there's a 99 per cent chance your child won't be Down's Syndrome. The odds are still very favourable." He also points out that medicine is now better equipped to deal with problems associated with older pregnant women, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

Four: There are strong psychological advantages in postponing pregnancy until the mid-thirties. Lesley Page, Queen Charlotte's professor of midwifery at Thames Valley University and a first-time mother at 46, says, "Older women have so much more maturity - they're better at balancing and managing their lives". Sheila Kitzinger, author of Birth Over Thirty-Five agrees. "Socially, by the time a woman reaches her late thirties she's really decided who she is and that's very important in terms of self-confidence."

Five: There's always the option not to have children at all. A recent Mintel survey showed that 17 per cent of females between 20 and 34 would prefer not to have children. According to Root Cartwright, chairman of the British Organisation of Non-Parents such decisions should be viewed as highly positive. "There are much greater opportunities for women - they have a wide range of different choices and are now able to run their lives in a completely different way."

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