Older women having children on the rise

LOUISE RISK
Last updated 05:00 21/05/2012
Donna McKinder
CHRIS HILLOCK/Fairfax NZ
LATE START: Donna McKinder had her first child, Kate, a few weeks before she turned 40 and her second child, Emma, at 41.

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Whether they put their career first or struggle to find Mr Right, increasing numbers of Kiwi women are putting off having children, with 4 per cent of the women who gave birth in the past year in their 40s or older.

Statistics New Zealand's latest birth data showed in the year to March 2012, 2525 babies were born to women 40 or older, a six-fold increase on three decades ago.

Donna McKinder was a few weeks shy of her 40th birthday when she had her first daughter, Kat, now 21 months, and 41 when she had her second daughter, Emma, now 5 1/2 months.

Mrs McKinder said she had known from the age of 16 that she wanted to have children, but didn't find the right man to have them with until later in life.

"My first husband had had a vasectomy, so I resigned myself to the fact that it wasn't meant to be. We broke up, and then a few years later I met Keith."

Her husband has two older girls, and thought one more would be enough, but after Kate was born Mrs McKinder wanted her to have some company.

"The reason they're so close together is age-related. Hurry up and have another one or don't have any more at all."

Mrs McKinder said one of the disadvantages of having children later was that the girls did not have the same grandparent support they would have had when she was younger, but having sisters who had been through motherhood and a baby-sitter-aged niece was an advantage.

"You do start thinking about age sometimes. When they're having their 21sts I'll be 61."

Mrs McKinder said that both her girls were naturally conceived, but she had considered in vitro fertilisation.

"I had a couple of miscarriages before I got pregnant with Kate. I had an appointment [for IVF] in January and I found out I was pregnant in December."

Mrs McKinder said that, with the exception of her time on the Space Waikato new parents' course, she had struggled to find a mothers' group she felt comfortable with, as the other mothers were "mostly in their 20s and 30s".

Space Waikato co-ordinator Catherine Polglase was not at all surprised to hear the number of women having children at 40 or older was on the rise. Finding the right partner, focusing on careers, or wanting financial stability were all reasons women put off having children until later. And "some are also deciding they're not going to miss out on having a family just because they haven't found someone to have children with".

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BY THE NUMBERS

Women 40 years or older having children in New Zealand:

Year to March 1982: 387 women (9 were 47 or older)

Year to March 1992: 808 women (6 were 47 or older)

Year to March 2002: 1667 women (7 were 47 or older)

Year to March 2012: 2525 women (24 were 47 or older)

- © Fairfax NZ News

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