A British psychologist suggests the media update its opinion on women who wait until their late 30s or early 40s to become mothers, claiming that notions of selfishness and willingness to risk the health of their baby need revision.
Rather than aiming to "have it all," many women delay motherhood for other reasons, and it is often less a matter of choice than circumstance, stated Kirsty Budds of the University of Huddersfield. She recently presented her research on the subject at a conference organized by the British Psychology Society at St. Andrew's University.
"I don't like the term 'delayed' because it implies agency and it implies choice," she stated in a press release last week. "It implies that women who have babies later on are putting something off or waiting for something."
"The assumption in newspapers is that women choose to delay motherhood for career reasons, which implies selfishness," she notes. "Also, anxiety over women putting careers before motherhood demonstrates the strength of the motherhood mandate -- in our society motherhood is considered more important for women than other occupations, such that they should be prioritising it."
Budds adds that while the medical convention is to regard 35 as the age at which greater health risk is attached to pregnancy, it's likely the risk boundary will rise to 40 as older mothers become more the norm. While birth rates in younger women have been declining, pregnancy after 40 is on the rise, according to the US-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While prior research has found that women over 35 have an increased risk of fertility issues as well a greater likelihood of having a C-section, there is some good news. A new study found that the offspring of older women are less likely to have accidents or need hospital care and more likely to have been vaccinated early. Their babies also are more likely develop a broader vocabulary from a young age and achieve higher scores in IQ tests in a range of measures up to the age of five. The research was presented in May at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health conference in Glasgow.