Biological clocks aren’t ticking so loudly for New Zealand women

The clock's ticking, but do Kiwi women really care?

The clock's ticking, but do Kiwi women really care?

Women in New Zealand are waiting later to have children, but at what cost? Hannah Martin reports.  

More Kiwi women are having children later in their lives.

The average age of women giving birth in New Zealand is now 30, compared to 25 years old in the 1970s.

Birth rates for teenagers and young adults are decreasing, with the rate of children born to mothers under the age of 20 in steady decline since 2008.

According to Statistics New Zealand, women aged 30-34 years have had a steady increase in their fertility rate for the past ten years.

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And it's not just happening here.

An article published by the Guardian this week shows that it's a growing trend in the UK too, with more women having babies in their forties than in their twenties.

But why the change?

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Waiting until a later stage in life can be the result of any number of factors, including advances in medicine that make it possible to conceive much later. However, there are also risks involved with waiting.

New Zealand College of Midwives advisor Jacqui Anderson says some women choose to wait, while others might not have had a choice: either they hadn't met the right partner yet, or they meet a partner in their late 30s or early 40s and decide that'swhen they want to try for a baby.

Anderson says the oldest woman she looked after as a midwife was 46, but that older mothers definitely don't make up a majority.

"Chronological age doesn't affect how well and healthy someone is, we look at the individual and how they are doing."

Anderson says that regardless of age, all soon-to-be mothers have the "same excitements and the same concerns," even if older women have different risk factors.

Some of the risks associated with advanced maternal age are gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, high blood-pressure and toxemia.

Women who take part in fertility treatments are screened to ensure it is safe for them to carry a baby.

Scientific Director for Fertility Plus, Margaret Merrilees, says fertility begins to decline as early as your late twenties, and by 37 it takes a "nosedive."

"A lot of people think they'll be fine."

"There are big differences in age that people don't think about. For fertility, being 40 or 41 is really different to being 43 or 44."

Dr Beverley Lawton from the Otago University Women's Health Research Centre says age is always going to be an important factor, as there is a strong link between maternal age and perinatal mortality.

The rate of stillbirths in women over the age of 40 is 15.84%, in someone 30-34 years of age the risk is much lower, at 9.9%.

Lawton says that women absolutely have the right to choose to have children later.
"We are aware of the risks and so we need to adapt."

"Women can make their own choices about when they have children, we just need to make sure we have a system that supports them."


 - Stuff

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