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At 45+, 635 women gave birth in England & Wales

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Friday, May 18, 2007 | 0 comments

There is no stopping the biological clock, as the birth rate shows. In 1999, there were 622,000 babies born in England and Wales. The most productive group, surprisingly, was the women aged 30-34: they had 185,300 babies. By the time women reached 40-44, they produced 13,600 specimens, and at 45-plus, 635 gave birth. In fact, nearly 300,000 women over 30 had babies, a cheering thought, until you think of the nappies.

But the figures leave much in the dark. How many 40-plus women are still trying, how many are still using contraceptives, how many are already infertile? Looking back can cast some light. In 1938, the number of women having babies in the 30-34 age group was actually smaller than today, even though the birth rate was roughly the same. Madonna and Cherie wouldn't have even made a paragraph then, when 25,000 women in the 40-44 age group gave birth - almost double current levels - and 2,200 babies were born to women over 45. That's almost four times as many as now. Clearly, choice, as well as biology, plays an important part - the really sharp decline in the birth rate for 35-plus women came in the 1970s, when it halved, coinciding with easier access to the Pill and abortion.

So, by when should you have your fertility tested? Unfortunately, exactly at what rate fertility declines is impossible to say. Nobody has measured the number of women trying to get pregnant at 40, say, and studied how successful they are. To state, as one Sunday broadsheet report of the American campaign did, that the rate of conception drops to a mere 2 per cent at 40 is very bleak and misleading.

No one can deny that you may have to wait longer to get pregnant once you are in you mid- to late-thirties, or that you may fail. As someone who did have a baby at the drop of a hat at 40, and another, albeit after three miscarriages, at 46, my advice is this: next time you see a shock-horror headline about older mothers, just turn the page.

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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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