Some would say 40 is the new 30 – more than ever women are having babies in their forties. You only have to look at the list of ‘older’ celebrity mums to see how normal it is becoming to be a ‘mature mum’.
Mariah Carey gave birth to twins at the age of 41. Halle Berry also became pregnant for the first time at 41 years and with her second child at age 42. Gwen Stefani welcomed her third son at 44. Salma Hayek, Rachel Zoe, Thandie Newton, Celine Dion and Kelly Preston are just some in a line of ever-increasing celebrity older mums.
So, does that mean becoming an older mum is more acceptable now for us ordinary mortals or is still frowned on and believed to be dangerous for mother and child?
I recently interviewed British mum of two, Magda Rabenda. Magda had her second child when she was 43years old. Interestingly she had had her first child when she was in her early twenties, so here was someone who had experienced both being a ‘young mum’ and becoming an ‘old mum’ and could compare the two. She spoke about the pros and cons for both sides but it was really interesting to hear that for her becoming a mum in her forties was so much easier than when she was a young mum. (Click here for the full podcast interview with Magda Rabenda).
The reason was so clear – when she became a mum in her twenties she was too naïve, to young to really get it and appreciate her daughter. Plus she was still busy being young, wanting to go out, wanting to go to parties and get dressed up. Money was tighter and she was always in a rush.
In contrast, when she became a mum in her forties she had done everything she wanted to do. She had had her share of fun, of work, and of sociability. She was much more established, more confident in herself and her abilities as a mum. She had established friends and a good support network and, importantly, she had time to give. She was no longer busy rushing around being young but instead was happy to just be at home with her beautiful baby. She suddenly had so much love to give and so much more time to give it.
Far from being embarrassed or ashamed of becoming a mum so much older, she is proud and has been so overwhelmed at how supportive everyone has been. She told me that she had been out at a pub lunch recently with her first daughter who is now in her twenties and her new toddler and, even though she thought people might think that her older daughter was the mother of her 2-year old, nobody blinked when she told them that she was the mother of both.
Another myth she has dispelled is the belief that you can’t be as fit a mother or able to cope with the late nights and early mornings if you are older. Instead she told me that she is fitter than she had ever been before in her youth.
According to The Guardian newspaper in the UK, one in 25 babies is now born to mums in their forties. In 1982 there were 6,519 live births in England and Wales to women aged 40 or more – just 1% of all babies born that year. By 2012 the office of National Statistics shows the figure had risen to 29,994 – 4.1% of all live births.
The average age of mothers is also creeping up. In 1973 it was 26.4years but by last year (2013) it was 29.8years.
A variety of reasons contribute to the trend of women becoming mothers later – a greater number of women going to university or prioritizing a career, the cost of bringing up a baby increasing and the growth of divorce (more women are having 2nd babies with their second partners later in life). Effective contraception also allows women to plan when they are having a family.
But..when baby chuckles turn to teenage sulks, how will the 50 something mums cope then? Actually, in reality they will get on far better than you could imagine. Research shows that in terms of general health and wellbeing, older mothers benefit by having stored oestrogen longer – having positive effects on muscle, bone and nerve function. There is even suggestions that with a young child, older women might be too absorbed in motherhood to be effected by the menopause.
So, far from being concerned about becoming an older mum, if you are lucky enough to get pregnant in your forties, embrace and enjoy.