Friday, March 28, 2008

How old is too old?

Once upon a time, I was married and got divorced without having children. I married again later and didn't have children, but that's not the point of this story. At the time I became a divorcee, or what my mother used to call a grass widow, I was 28 years old. That seems young now, but I was truly concerned about whether I still had a chance to have children. I even checked a book out of the library about childbirth over age 30. That was 1980. In those days, most women still gave birth before their 30th birthday. Things have changed a lot.

This came to mind this week because of a New York Times piece offering statistics about women and pregnancy. Most of it referred to the fact that majority of pregnant women work up to their ninth month and come back to work soon after the birth, but the stat that caught my attention said that the percentage of first births to women age 30 and older had increased from 4 percent in 1970 to 24 percent in 2000. They don't go into the reasons, but we all know that women are waiting longer. Many want to get established in their careers before they jump onto the mommy train. Back in 1970, being a mother was the career for most women. They went to college to earn their MRS degree and shortly after the nuptials, they were having babies.

Experts say women's ability to conceive starts decreasing in their mid-30s, but many women these days figure they can wait until 40 or even a little later to have children. For some it's no problem. A few get surprised by early menopause. Oops, game over. Others count on in vitro fertilization, surrogate mothers and other medical maneuvers to shore up their aging ovaries.

So, is 40 the new 30? Is there some wisdom to having children when you're younger so you have more energy to take care of them? Is it worth the risk of waiting until you're older and more settled in your life, even though it might be more difficult to conceive? How old is too old to have children? What do you think?

Bringing things back to the subject of being childless by marriage, if you're dating, engaged or married to a man who says he doesn't want children, do you have time to change his mind or should you move on because the clock is ticking?

Here's one more statistic to ponder from a collection of facts and figures posted online last month: of the nearly 1 billion women in the world aged 40 or older, 8 percent are estimated to be childless. That compares to almost 25 percent in the U.S. Hmm.

I'd love to hear your comments.

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