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The Effects of Age on Pregnancy and Birth


Last year, I was contacted by Amy Herring, an eighteen year old student studying for her A Levels in Biology, History and Maths. She has applied to study Midwifery at University this coming September, and in relation to this goal, she has completed a research project on the effects of age on pregnancy and birth. I was immediately interested by the subject matter of her research.

Amy chose to write about the effects of age on the pregnancy continuum because as someone aspiring to be a midwife, to support a woman and her family through any situation, she wanted to broaden her knowledge in advance of starting her training; to prepare herself for the many different situations she is likely to encounter. She is particularly interested in pregnancy in older women as this is becoming more common in the UK for a variety of reasons. Amy feels that although pregnancy in older women poses its possible risks, it’s an option that all women should feel they are able to consider. In her opinion, midwives and other health professionals should present women and their families with their options in a way they can understand.

Amy’s research tested the hypothesis, ‘Is there an optimum age, that is not too old or not too young, for women to bear children’. To calculate the optimum age window, she made comparisons between ‘young mums’ (women aged under 18), ‘older mums’ (women aged 35 and over) and the ‘middle’ category mums, those falling between the two extreme categories; her argument being that mothers outside the optimum age window may have troublesome pregnancies, possibly resulting in complications in utero or a baby that experiences difficulties.

Amy’s research looked at conception and birth statistics, childhood data, data she collected from a ‘Bosom Buddies’ breastfeeding class, the lifestyle choices of women and the prevalence of pre-existing health conditions. Amy used many studies; these studies showed that older mums are more likely to experience complications such as gestational diabetes, placenta praevia and pre-eclampsia, and are more at risk from ectopic pregnancies and miscarriage. However, it is important to realise that Amy’s research was not complete; as she concludes: “Items have been cited in this project as needing more research; for example factors other than age, such as marital status, and how these affect outcomes.”

The research concluded that women in the ‘middle’ category – aged between 25 and 35 –   have the healthiest and safest pregnancies, for both the women and the babies. The older a woman becomes, the greater her risk of a pre-existing condition affecting her and her foetuses wellbeing. The exceptions to this are epilepsy, where women of 35 have the lowest risk and asthma, which affects women in the ‘middle’ category most commonly. Although Amy comes to this conclusion, she mentions in her project that older women do have factors which could make their pregnancy and birth more successful such as life experience and a more stable environment in which to raise a child.


Older Mums thoughts…

So what does this mean for older women who have not settled down with a partner yet? One word stands out; HEALTH. For any woman wishing to conceive over the age of 35, just as I did, physical, emotional and mental health have to be top priorities. No smoking. No drinking. Plenty of exercise (and meditation to reduce stress levels). A well balanced diet, as much organic food as possible. Lots of rest and relaxation. I think there are many women out there who would ideally love to conceive at the ‘optimum age’ but can’t due to many reasons beyond their control; no partner, not feeling emotionally or psychologically ready (as I did), career demands. There are many many reasons as to why a woman may want to conceive later in life. Amy realises that a woman’s choice is an important factor in this decision. Society needs to accommodate this factor and all others, the world is not as it was, women are having children later, and this is something that won’t change.

Physical risks aside, there are many positives older women have in becoming a parent later in life; maturity, life experience, financial stability, older mothers tend to be in a solid relationship, all factors which can only contribute to the upbringing of a well adjusted, happy child. At the end of the day, we are talking about the raising of confident, secure human beings, and that is an issue which lies at the door of parenting, not age.


I would like to thank Amy for sending me her research. It is important to be educated on the physical risks of pregnancy, and reminded of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and diet when considering becoming pregnant. I have a strong hunch Amy is going to make a great mid wife.

Amy’s research, The Effects of Age on Pregnancy and Birth, is protected under the Copyright of oldermum.co.uk. All rights reserved. 


The Long and Winding Road

This is a very moving story of one woman’s twelve year struggle into motherhood. It does have a happy ending. She also writes a great, blog over at F.A.B at Forty.  



I was born in the 70’s in Northern Ireland, during some of its bleakest times in history the country was gripped by the “troubles”, people were dying every day. Bombings, shootings, army helicopters and soldiers on the street were the norm in my life. However, I had a very happy childhood and my parents sheltered us from the worst of it all.

As I grew up though, I realised just how bad things were in my country and when I left school I decided somewhat naively that I wanted to make a difference in my beautiful wee country. So I joined the police or the RUC – Royal Ulster Constabulary as they were then. Through my job, I met my husband. He was a British Army Officer; we fell in love “across the barricades”. Both of us witnessed terrible atrocities, but we kept each other strong and eventually we got married.

Two years later we decided to try to start a family. I stopped taking contraception and waited for the “inevitable” pregnancy. It never happened, after two years I still wasn’t pregnant. I decided to go to the Dr and be checked over. She took blood tests and also carried out sperm tests on my hubby. His tests came back fine; mine however, showed a slight hormonal imbalance. The Dr decided to refer me to a gynaecologist, rather than waste any more time. After more scans, tests and a laparoscopy, he put me onto clomid to try to aid my ovulation. After 8 months it just wasn’t working, nothing was happening and we were told that the route for us would have to be IVF, just like that, like a bolt out of the blue.

We decided to give it a go. It would work right? I had yet more tests and was then put onto an 11 day course of injections to help my follicles mature. Nothing happened; I was on those injections for 42 days and nothing. So they stopped the injections and I had to wait for my next cycle to try again.

We had enough savings to keep trying and that’s exactly what we did 3 more times and each time it failed, I was an emotional mess. My body was pumped full of drugs, I’d had so many internal scans, that probe became like an old friend!

After the 3rd failed attempt, I just couldn’t do it anymore. So we stopped, we told ourselves we weren’t meant to be parents and we tried to enjoy our lives. The huge gaping hole of motherhood hung over me constantly though. At Easter, Halloween and especially Christmas, I’d mourn the babies that I never got the chance to buy eggs for, to dress as witches and bats and to play Santa to.

Ten years after stopping, we were shopping one day when I had the sudden urge to buy a pregnancy test. We went home and I used the test immediately. I didn’t expect much, my period wasn’t late yet and I’d been drinking tea all day, but I couldn’t wait to “pee on that stick”. The positive result was unmistakable, I didn’t have to hold the stick up to the light, tear it apart to examine the inside or balance on the edge of the sink to view it from another angle. It was there, big bold and dark. I was pregnant, completely naturally, unassisted by any medical intervention.

I won’t bore you with all my pregnancy details, but it was a wonderful, easy pregnancy until almost 23 weeks. At that point, our lives fell apart, our wonderful miracle died, his tiny little heart stopped beating, he was gone. Fate, God, Mother Nature, whatever you believe in, took him away from us. It was just before Christmas 2008 and it was the darkest time of my life. His birth was horrific for me and his funeral even more so. Even today I still feel raw and emotional about it. Even today I still cry for my son, my boy, my first-born.

In time we decided to try again, this time I miscarried at 6 weeks, but by now I desperately wanted to be pregnant, now that I knew I could. After another period of trying. I knew instantly that I was pregnant, about a week before my missed period. I just knew. After a horrendously pregnancy fraught with worry, I got pre eclampsia and at 38 weeks following an emergency c section our gorgeous daughter was born. We’d done it we’d become parents. I was almost 39. I’d been trying to become a mum from the age of 26 and now I was.

No matter how wonderful it was, it was also a shock to the system. We’d become so used to it being just the 2 of us and now suddenly we were 3. The adjustments to our lives were immense. No impromptu dinners out, or surprise weekends away, no squandering our money on frivolous luxuries and no more lying relaxing in bed! Six months later I had a very familiar feeling and yes, you’ve guessed it. I was pregnant again!

So here I am a forty-year old mum of 2 girls under 3. Life is chaotic, tiring and emotional too. Sometimes I feel lost in it all, swallowed up by motherhood. I sometimes wonder where I am, the person I am or should I say was.

I do worry a bit about being an older mum. I worry about dying while they are young. Silly, I know, young mums die too. I worry about them being embarrassed by their old mum

Most of the time though, I feel like I am living a surreal dream. As cheesy as it sounds, I could burst with happiness. My dream came true, the heartache along the way will never go away, but the joy and love I have for our girls is the most amazing feeling I’ve ever had. Our house is busy, noisy and now messy, but my word I love it like this.

F.A.B at Forty On Twitter