How Old Is Too Old To Have A Baby?
44, According To British Women
New research conducted by The Private Pregnancy UK Show in May 2016 revealed that when it comes to having babies, British women believe that 44 is ‘too old’ and should be the cut-off point.
The research aimed to start a debate on how far medical intervention and assisted conception can go in aiding women who wish to preserve their fertility or delay having children, as well as highlighting the need for increased fertility awareness for adult women and calls for sex education to include information on fertility options.
LEADING IVF CLINICS
The survey highlighted the five reasons as to why women believe 44 should be the cut-off age:
- It is unfair on the child to have old parents
- Increased likelihood of health complications like Down’s Syndrome for the child
- Women aged 50-plus should not be allowed fertility assistance via vitro fertilisation (IVF)
- Parents won’t live long enough to see the child grow up
- It is ‘unnatural’ to have babies after that age
‘I totally agree with the results that 44 is too old for a number of reasons. Firstly, the number of eggs significantly decline after the age of 40, so there will be less chance of getting pregnant. If you do get pregnant, the quality of the eggs may be poor and can result in a higher number of babies being chromosomally abnormal, resulting in a higher rate of miscarriage.’
Dr Eskander explained that the numbers of health risks are greater for older expectant mums, including a higher rate of hypertension, which can lead to pre-eclampsia. There is also an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. This can cause gestational diabetes in pregnancy, resulting in bigger babies who may require a caesarean section.
What Is The Best Age To Have A Baby?
With the new research from The Private Pregnancy Show UK and news that Janet Jackson is pregnant at 49, the question of how old is too old to have a baby is encouraging debate and conversation across the board. The likes of The Daily Telegraph, Metro and The Daily Mail are all writing about the new latest Private Pregnancy UK research.
So, how old is too old when it comes to having a baby? This question led to a lively debate amongst a group of leading healthcare panellists in a discussion on women’s healthcare at the Private Pregnancy UK Show.
During the panel discussion, Dr Eskander commented: ‘Although it is possible to get pregnant at age 44, the number of eggs decline, the quality of the eggs decline and women also start to have problems in terms of hypertension and diabetes. These can cause problems for the woman at this age and can cause the pregnancy itself to be complicated. If you can plan your life, it’s better not to leave it too late but if you do, make sure you look after yourself, stop smoking and get exercise. There are ways to get pregnant but the chances will be less and you may require Assisted Conception.’
Amberin Fur from Bloom@58 stressed that in this day and age, our forties are not what they once were; people are more conscientious, taking better care of themselves in terms of health and diet: ‘There are some 44-year-olds that would give a 30-year-old a run around the block,’ she explained, ‘So I don’t think we need to put a definitive age on it — each case is individual.’
Jenny Smith, Head Midwife at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital commented how she has also seen mothers older than the recommended age who have been considerably unwell with hypertension and diabetes. ‘I think it’s a balance of informed choice for the mother.’
Dr Armin Gorgy, Fertility Consultant and Co-Director at The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy said that in the current age we live longer and healthier and that in special circumstances he would give treatment to a few women beyond 50 but the decision to do this would be based on common sense and a clinic meeting to decide everyone is comfortable. He stressed: ‘At any meeting I ask staff “Who do we think we are to judge people?”. We are looking at the best interests of the mother and the baby but we are not deciding who can and cannot get pregnant; we are doing our duty to make sure we look enough into the welfare of the family, mother and potential child.’
‘From the obstetric perspective, at the other end of the scale I see lots of people in their 20s who I don’t think should get pregnant or should be pregnant,’ commented Richard Sheridan, a Senior Consultant Obstetrician at The Birth Team. ‘If you are overweight, smoke, drink and you’re 20, there’s far more reason for you not to get pregnant than a fit woman in her 40s. Fit women in their forties, once pregnant — and getting pregnant is a different ball game — often do very very well.’ Although there is evidence that the placenta may not function as well after 40 weeks, Dr Sheridan highlighted that the has had experience of many women in their forties who, once they are pregnant, behave normally. ‘The problem is getting pregnant and sometimes you need to be aware of when your biological clock is ticking.’
In the opinion of the fertility experts, there is little doubt that the best age to try and start a family for women is between the age of 20 to 35; there are a bigger number of eggs available, therefore, a higher chance of getting pregnant and having a healthy baby.
More Choice Than Ever Before
The Private Pregnancy UK Show research highlighted that three-quarters (75%) of British women believe there should be more information available to women about ‘leaving it too late’ to conceive or services to preserve their fertility. For most, it is expected that the responsibility for giving this information lies with government health officials (75%) but a significant number (23%) believe it should be taught in schools during sex education classes.
For almost seven in ten (68%), fertility options and advancements are one of the most important medical innovations for modern women. So with medicine providing more choice than ever, why do many couples still feel in the dark?