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Motherhood - is later really better than never?

WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

It's not just celebrities who are leaving it later in life to have a baby. The likes of Janet Jackson having her first child at 50 and Geri Horner becoming a second-time mum at 44 may hit the headlines, but as a nation late motherhood is a growing trend.

The latest figures show the average age in England and Wales for a woman to give birth is 30 years old.

More women are giving birth in their 40s than ever before. Figures in 2015 showed the largest percentage increase in women having babies was to women aged 40 and above. In fact, more women over 40 are having babies than those under 20.

Some women in the UK are having babies even later than that.

In 2015 in England and Wales 346 women gave birth aged 49 and above. In Scotland there were six births to women 50 or over and three in Northern Ireland.

Why are women giving birth later?

You can't pinpoint a single reason for the trend in delayed motherhood.

A variety of personal and social factors may come into play. It may be that women may want to establish their careers before starting a family. They may not have found a partner they want to have a child with.

"More and more people are delaying parenthood. It's not always the woman's choice, it may be her partner who's the one who's not quite ready to be a parent," says Susan Seenan, chief executive of the charity Fertility Network UK.

"There are pressures. People perhaps don't feel they can afford to have a child, they don't feel secure enough, they may not have a house to bring a child up in," adds Susan.

What are the implications on fertility?

When you see celebrities in their 40s and 50s having babies it's all too easy to think that's normal and you have got all the time in the world to start a family.

Unfortunately that's not true. You may be fit in your 40s, go to the gym and look after your health but your eggs might be getting past their sell-by-date. As female babies are born with all of their eggs, if you are 45 your eggs will also be 45. As you age there's a decline in the quality of the eggs.

Also many older celebs may have assisted pregnancies. They have the cash to spend thousands on fertility treatments, which the average person might not be able to afford, especially if they are too old to qualify for IVF on the NHS.

Jessica Hepburn is the author of The Pursuit of Motherhood. She's had 11 rounds of IVF herself and wishes there was more honesty and less shame about using fertility treatment.

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