A recent CDC study reports that the 2016 birth rate for women ages 40–44 was 11.4 births per 1,000 women, the highest rate in more than four decades. Since 2007, the birth rate has risen 19% for women in their early 40s and 11% for women in their late 30s. For women 41+, attempts at utilizing assisted reproduction through IVF have risen by 50%. Since this path is no longer considered a ‘trend,' it is essential to consider some of the positives of later parenting. (We are all familiar with the negative aspects reported often in the media.)
Many women report feeling a stronger sense of self and increased financial stability as an older parent. Some were initially ambivalent about motherhood and chose to wait until they were in a more emotionally secure place to provide for a child, even with declining fertility. Other women wanted to be in a strong, supportive relationship. Most report carefully considering their current life circumstances in order to ensure a healthy environment in which to raise a child.
Some surprises do occur: experiencing the perimenopause or menopause transition so close to giving birth, reduced time for self after having a longer phase of independence prior to becoming a parent, and an increase in ‘sandwich generation’ responsibilities from caring for an older parent while also caring for a young child.
Having a child at any age is a very personal decision. There are many paths to parenthood: natural pregnancy, assisted reproduction, third-party family building, adoption, and foster parenting. The decision is based on one’s subjective experience. One thing is certain: the age range for becoming a first time mother continues to expand.