You probably desperately want a baby, you may even have been trying for years with a trail of failed IVF cycles behind you, perhaps you already have children but long to nurse another baby, maybe you have a younger partner who would like children of their own or a new partner and you want to have a child together. Whatever has brought you here, the hardest question to answer is should you have a baby in your fifties?
If you read some of the UK newspapers, the answer is a very definite no. I’ve read scary stories about older women being more likely to have miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies while children are more likely to be born with genetic abnormalities.
An article on Wikipedia talks about increased risks of gestational diabetes, hypertension, delivery by caesarean section, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and placenta previa. “In comparison to mothers between 20 and 29 years of age, mothers over 50 are at almost three times the risk of low birth weight, premature birth and extremely premature birth; their risk of extremely low birth weight, small size for gestational age and foetal mortality was almost double.”
Then there are those who think it is fundamentally wrong for an older woman to have a baby, those who talk about the baby orphaned at an early age, people who tell you emphatically you will be too tired, people who are genuinely worried for your health, people who think you are being selfish.
Phew….seems to be every reason NOT to try for a baby in our fifties.
When I was trying to answer this question myself, I was frustrated by the sheer lack of any real evidence. Do a bit of digging and the Wikipedia article is based on ONE research study which took place in 1997-1999. Seriously? How is that relevant? Other articles don’t name their sources. And does any of the evidence take into account own egg versus donor egg? And what about pre-existing conditions, obesity? diabetes? hypertension? Is age per se really the problem?
Then I came across this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2096285/Pregnancy-IVF-patients-age-50-carries-risk-women-42.html
Very reassuring to find more recent research says as long as we look after ourselves then we should be just fine.
So, overall, I could find no strong scientific reason why I shouldn’t go ahead. So what about the moral reasons?
What about the people who don’t agree with women having children later in life? Well, to put it bluntly, my life and my decisions (in conjunction with my husband of course) are none of their business. And if it’s not OK to have a child in your fifties then how is it OK that tens of thousands of grandparents are permanent guardians for their grandchildren? And even more provide full-time childcare? And many of these are way older than their 50’s but manage perfectly well. The fact is we are aging differently. At one time it was common for a women to have her last child in her forties when she was only expected to live into her 50’s. Nowadays we can reasonably expect to live to 80yrs, and be healthy at that age.
To those who are adamant the child will be orphaned? Well, how does anyone know they will be there to see their children grow up? We all know young Mums who have died of breast cancer leaving behind a young family. Unfortunately it happens. I can’t live my life imagining all the possible things that might go wrong. They might not.
Will I be too tired? Probably, but what Mum isn’t? And surely being a great Mum is much more than being able to chase your child around the local park for a couple of hours? (which, incidentally, I’m more than capable of doing). Above all, a child needs love and I have LOADS of that to give.
Am I worried about my health? Well of course I thought about it but I have regular check-ups at my local GP and (touch wood) have always come out with nothing to worry about. I don’t take any regular medication, I’m not overweight, I don’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or diabetes. I’m certainly no gym bunny but I’m not unfit either. My GP said there was no real reason why I shouldn’t have a healthy pregnancy.
Am I being selfish? Why is it any more selfish to have a baby in your fifties than at any other age? Is it selfish to want to bring a good citizen into this world? Someone who will hopefully contribute?
So, having mulled over all the arguments, in the end I came to the conclusion that this is the right time for me. I will be a better Mum now then I could ever have been in my twenties or thirties. I’ve done my travelling, I’ve had my fun, I won’t resent not being able to go partying. I’m finally with the right man, we have savings that will enable me to be a full time Mum for a while, we have support from family and friends.
Is it a risk? Isn’t having a baby always a risk? But is life worth living if we don’t take the occasional risk?