More women are waiting to have children, which can only be a good thing

The average age of first-time mothers has increased, signalling a welcome shift in priorities


Some play golf, some spot trains and some, one imagines, extremely bored and quite odd people, watch wombs. Or, to be accurate, one womb in particular.

The Royal Womb which belongs to the Duchess of Cambridge and which might be lined in imperial purple silk and trimmed with ermine for all the attention that has suddenly, distastefully, been focused on it.

It’s not the first time this has happened, of course. The initial bout of royal womb-watching began shortly after Kate Middleton married Prince William. Naturally. The duchess does not have a job in the sense that most would understand the term, but she does have one important (or irrelevant, depending on your view) duty to carry out – to produce an heir to the throne.

She did that with efficiency, but it was not enough. To be in one’s early thirties and married is to endure endless inquiries as to one’s reproductive plans. Having one child only gives the queries greater scope. A baby brother? Perhaps another? When one is married to the future king, the quizzical nods to one’s tummy must be unrelenting.

Now as Prince George prepares to turn one next week, the binoculars have come out again, scanning the duchess’s cheeks and belly for signs of swelling, her hair for strands of grey and, probably, her two massive kitchens for odd combinations of gherkins and peanut butter.

This week, the two bookmakers Coral and Ladbrokes suspended betting on whether a second royal pregnancy will be announced this month thanks to what they describe as a “betting frenzy”. Who puts money on what the sperm and eggs of strangers might do? Moreover, a source who was friends with the duchess at school 20 years ago says that she is probably pregnant. So that must be that.

If and when the Duchess of Cambridge, who is 32, announces a second pregnancy, it will in one small but significant way be rather average. This week, the Office for National Statistics reported that the average age of first-time mothers in the UK is 30. To put that in perspective, in 1975 it was 26.4 and it has been going up steadily ever since.

In fact, the overall birth rate fell last year by 4.3 per cent, but the most significant decline was among young women under 20 and those aged 20 to 24. The smallest decreases were for women aged 35 to 39 and 40 and over.

There are two things to take from this. One, that the message about teenage pregnancy is getting through. And two, that Britain’s mothers are getting older. This should not come as a surprise.

As women have been emancipated by fair chances and contraception from the traditional, circumscribed path of daughter to wife and mother; as they have stayed on in education, developed their careers and financial independence and stayed single or unmarried for longer, having a baby has dropped down the list.

Other less edifying reasons for raising a family later in life might be the near impossibility of buying a family home, the crippling cost of childcare, unstable relationships and the damage having a child still does to a woman’s career and earnings.

Some may interpret the rise in age and fall in birth rate as a sign that women still cannot have it all. Better surely to take it as confirmation that there is no rush.

Jean Twenge’s recent definitive article for The Atlantic, “How Long Can You Wait to Have a Baby?”, points out that the much-cited statistic – that one in three women aged 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying – is based on a 2004 article which in turns takes it data from French birth records dating from 1670 to 1830. Times and medical technology have changed; so too must attitudes.

That 30 might no longer be considered old to be a mother, that women have the option to take their time to live rounded lives, having children only when they are ready to care for them, financially and emotionally, is a good thing.

Even better will be the moment when society pays not the slightest heed to when someone chooses to have a child. Queen-in-waiting or not, a woman’s womb is her own.

Why we should allow assisted dying
Marvel comics have made Thor a woman, thank Odin
As a child growing up in Israel, I saw how Palestinians became dehumanised

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Yvette Cooper campaigning in London at the launch of Labour’s women’s manifesto  

I want the Labour Party to lead a revolution in family support

Yvette Cooper
Liz Kendall  

Labour leadership contest: 'Moderniser' is just a vague and overused label

Steve Richards
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine