Women Starting Motherhood Later in Life

Women Starting Motherhood Later in Life

Motherhood is waiting longer to arrive these days. The number of women giving birth to their first child after age 34 has increased by more than nine times over the past four decades.

The latest statistics by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Health Statistics revealed that a higher number of older women are becoming first time mothers.

"The age at first birth is really a very important topic," Dr. Joanne Stone, director of maternal fetal medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, said reported by CBS News. "When a woman has her first child can influence how many children she is going to have in the future. If you're 44 and this is your first baby, you may not have more children in the future. So it affects what's going to happen to the population, it affects the size of the population, the future growth of the population, as well as the composition of the population."

The researchers looked at birth data from 1973 through 2012. They found that from 1973 to 2006, the rate of first births in women between the ages of 35 and 39 increased six times from 1.7 to 10.9 women per 1,000 women. From 2006 to 2010, the rate dropped slightly before increasing again in 2012, possibly due to the Great Recession. For the age group of 20 to 44, the first birth rate was stable from the 1970s through to the 1980s. From 1985 to 2012, the rate of first birth in older women soared from 0.5 to 2.3 women for every 1,000 women.

The increase in first birth rates for older women occurred in all races and ethnicities. For white women, the number of women between the ages of 40 and 49 that had their first children increased by 130% between 1990 and 2012, while the rate for black women increased by 171% during the same time.

When looking at the different areas of the country, the rate of first time mothers between the ages of 35 and 39 increased the most in the District of Columbia, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington state, and Wyoming. The rate of first time mothers aged 40 to 44 increased the most in the District of Columbia, Minnesota, Nebraska, and South Carolina.

The birth rate among U.S. teens and young women dropped to record lows last year, while the rate among older women hit highs not seen in a half century, according to government statistics released on Thursday.

The general fertility rate overall in the United States reached a record low of 62.9 births per 1,000 women, said the report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics.

Overall, 3,957,577 babies were born last year in the United States.

It is thought that the drop was likely attributable to educational efforts to prevent teen pregnancy and that economic factors also affected the rate, which began to fall dramatically during the recession that began in 2007. Data has also shown that the birth rate and number of births among girls ages 10 to 14 hit historic lows. The birth rate for women in their early 20s declined to a record low as well.

Meanwhile, birth rates for women in their 30s and 40s rose.

Better Health Care

Mothers-to-be 35 years of age and older are offered prenatal testing to determine the presence of chromosome abnormalities in the fetus. Amniocentesis, the most commonly used test for detecting chromosome problems, is performed between the 16th and 18th weeks of pregnancy. Amniocentesis allows analysis of the fetal chromosomes to determine if there is an abnormal number. If an abnormality is discovered, the mother is given the option to terminate the pregnancy.

Most older mothers experience normal labor and delivery. However, certain problems are more common in this age group, for example, placental abruption (premature separation of the placenta). Therefore, the rate of cesarean section is somewhat higher in older mothers.

Many healthy babies are being born to women who have chosen to wait for a more stable time in their lives. We will continue to see women having babies later in life as many women are opting to postpone childbirth to get higher education or establish themselves in their careers.

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