With Mother’s Day just barely behind us and reproductive rights taking centre stage in the political arena, there is another parenting issue on my mind today: the trend of delayed parenthood.
The average age at which women are choosing to become mothers seems to have increased over the past few decades. According to Statistics Canada, "Twenty years ago, the majority of live births were to women in their twenties. Today, the proportion of mothers in their thirties is much higher." Mothers over the age of 45 now account for one in every 1,000 births in Canada, reports the CBC, compared to a rate of 0.4 per thousand in 2000. Fertility experts suggest that advances in technology’such as IVF treatments’are a contributing factor in the growing number of women becoming first-time moms at an older age.
It’s not hard to understand why some women (and their partners, for that matter), would choose to delay parenthood. For many people in their twenties and early thirties, the focus is on continuing eduation, establishing a career and realizing other goals before attempting to start a family. For some, having children may not be something that they realize they really want until later in life. Which leads to the burning question’how late is "too late" to make that realization? Is there a point where women (and men) should be considered too old for parenthood?
Giving birth later in life carries with it some fairly significant risks to your unborn child. At 40, the chances of giving birth to a child with Down Syndrome are one in 100. By 49, that number jumps to one in 10. The risk of miscarriage also rises with age’to 50 percent by age 45. Babies born to older mothers are also more likely to be premature, resulting in longer hospital stays.
"As much as it’s a personal choice, it’s also a societal choice that has to be considered," Dr. Doug Wilson’department head of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Calgary’told the CBC. Personally, I have to agree with him.
Let me be clear’I absolutely support IVF treatments and I think it’s amazing that we have technology available that can help make someone’s dream of having children a reality, when it may otherwise not be possible. However, at a certain point, I can’t help but feel that IVF is no longer a tool to help people overcome biological barriers, but rather a tool that allows people to indulge their own selfish desires.
As I’ve said before, I am not a parent. But if there’s one thing that I admire about the parents I know, it’s their ability to put the health and well-being of their children first. If you haven’t at least considered the possibility that having a child in your late 40s and 50s could lead to serious health complications for your child’and yourself’maybe this parenting thing just isn’t for you.
What do you think? Should there be a cut-off age for IVF treatments? And does this issue unfairly target older women, while letting older men off the hook?