Now more over-35s give birth than under-25s, here are four good reasons to wait until you're older

You could earn some money, travel the world, study, go out and get drunk and not worry about getting up at 7am

Jane Merrick
Tuesday 17 November 2015 18:15 GMT
When I had my first child, I was apparently geriatric
When I had my first child, I was apparently geriatric (

When I gave birth to my daughter at the age of 36, the medical notes listed me as a “geriatric primagravida” – a “first-time elderly mother”. After not sleeping a wink for three days, feeling practically immobile, and with an urge to watch non-stop episodes of Cash in the Attic, it certainly did seem as if I had aged 60 years. But, as many mothers over 35 will know, this is simply the charming term the medical profession uses to describe us, although maybe an emoji-cum-road sign, featuring a woman with a huge bump and a walking stick would be more zeitgeisty.

Anyway, the phrase “many mothers” is apt, as there are far more of us than there used to be. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that, for the first time, there are more women giving birth over the age of 35 than are aged under 25.

The largest age group for pregnancy and delivery is still the 25-34s, accounting for 59 per cent of all births, but the increase is still striking. The over-35s account for 21 per cent of births, while the under-25s are responsible for just 20 per cent. There were 144,181 live births to women aged 35 and over, compared to just 31,515 in 1977.

This shift has triggered the usual alarm from the medical profession: the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists reminds us that fertility declines from the mid-thirties onwards, with a greater risk of miscarriage and medical intervention, while the Royal College of Midwives recently reported that the trend in older mothers (I do love being part of a trend) was putting greater pressure on maternity wards, as if we didn’t have enough guilt to carry around.

We have heard this all before – the gigantic and deafening biological clock that ticks loudly from medicine, the media and society. For many of us, having a child well into our thirties or forties isn’t a “choice”. What about if the person you’re dating when you’re 26 isn’t the one? But even if someone does choose to delay motherhood – for whatever reason – it’s not something to feel bad about.

While there is nothing wrong with having a child when you’re young, here are the four reasons why it is wonderful being an older mother:

1. You can do something else first. Earn some money; establish your career; travel the world; study; go out and get drunk and not worry about getting up at 7am; watch an 18-certificate film or two at the cinema. And, whatever you do, you can appreciate it while you’re doing it. Of course, you can have children at the same time as pushing hard at forging a career, but you will still have to compromise. You could have three children by the time you’re 28 and then do all that carefree or career stuff when your youngest is 18 and you’re 46, but it won’t be quite the same.

2. You can stand up to the many public-sector staff you will encounter from the moment you get pregnant until your child’s last day of school. Midwives, doctors, health visitors, nursery workers, nannies, teachers: whoever they are, they will all try to tell you what to do.

I am not saying you can’t do this when you’re 23; my mother told off a midwife when she was having her first child at that age. But when you’re in your late thirties and you’re called into the headteacher’s office at your child’s school, you can call upon two decades of being a grownup and refuse to take any rubbish.

3. When all’s said and done, you will actually be less tired. I know parenthood is supposed to be like hangovers, affecting you more painfully the older you get. And it is true that younger mothers seem to bounce out of the labour ward like they’ve just been to a zumba class. But here is the counter-argument: having children tires you out at whatever age you are. Better to harness all your physical energy during your twenties for the exhaustion to come.

4. You can use your life experience to rear your child. I am not saying I am a better parent than someone 10 years younger than me, and I admit my five-year-old daughter outwits me on a daily basis. But I hope I can teach her, as she gets older, about all the knock-backs, the bad dates, and the decisions I’ve made – good and bad.

And I will tell her not to listen to all the warnings about “leaving it too late” to have children. Because, in the end, that decision is up to her.

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