Do women who wait until their late 30s to have children 'defy nature' and risk heartbreak?
Leading obstetricians have warned women that the best age for pregnancy is between 20 to 35 and older mothers risk increased problems, in a report for the British Medical Journal.
More babies are being born to older mothers in Western countries in recent years, largely attributed to women wanting to concentrate on their careers.
Are you an older mum? What do you think is the best age to have a child? Why are women waiting to conceive? Can anything be done to support women who want to start a family?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
I waited until I was 29 to have my daughter and even at that age I totally under estimated how much energy a pregnancy, birth, and then sleepless nights would require. I believe that having a baby over the age of 35 asks a lot of a woman physically. Women who are delaying until the "perfect time" will find that it never is the right time you just cannot have it all.
Hayley Cooper, Manchester
This is obviously and emotive issue and one that many take personally. However, I think the BMJ where simply stating medical facts. We are increasingly backed up by medical science and that is something to fall back however our bodies remain the same and statistically women who babies later in life are more prone to problems. There is nothing wrong in stating that.
Steve Talbot, UK
The right time is when it's right for you, not anyone else. I thought I was pregnant in my mid-twenties and was delighted to find out I wasn't although I was very happily married. Five years later we tried for a baby and had a beautiful daughter who is no almost 14. Had she arrived five years earlier I would not have been ready. I wish I'd had more but would not do so now because of the impact on my daughter and because of the risk associated with being pregnant in my mid forties. However, this is my choice and someone else's may be completely different.
Sue, West Midlands
More women are going to university and have professional careers. As more women want to focus on their careers in their 20s, more will not have children until their 30s. It is a sign of the changing role of women in the Western world. They are no longer expected to get married and have children right away. They can wait and marry for love. In these times, a family needs two solid incomes to have a decent standard of living for a family.
Brian, Reston, VA, USA
The point that was being made in the BMJ has been a bit twisted. They aren't saying that no woman should have a child after 35. What they are saying is that those of us who do have a choice need to be aware that pregnancies, and indeed getting pregnant, after age 35 may not be as plain sailing as we might wish. This knowledge won't change anything for those of us who haven't met the person with whom we want to have children until our mid-30s but there is still a significant group for whom this information could make a big difference to their decisions regarding having children. Where's the harm in that?
Jac Crosbie, Hampshire
Biology points us towards the uncomfortable fact that a woman is twice as fertile at 16 as she is at 30. Nature doesn't care if we are financially secure, or in a stable relationship, or emotionally prepared - nature simply dictates that all other things being equal a woman is more likely to fall pregnant in the three years after puberty than at any other time.
I don't object to older mums having babies if they can through natural means. Its only when science steps in to 'artificially' extend the natural age of conception, that I object to.
The majority of responses show that women having children later in life are responsible because they want to be able to afford to have children and to be independently financial. This article suggests that the correct attitude should be to have a child in your teens/early 20s with unpaid debts, destined to live off the state? What a future for those children!
The doctors in question are not patronising women or being sexist. They're expressing the results of careful research to those who need to hear it. The media adds the careers twist, medics deal with statistics, fact and experience, not folklore and old wives tales.
Anon, Stafford, UK
It seems that the vast majority of replies here from women who wish to have children later in life seem to ignore the simple fact that fertility declines as women get older and pregnancy complications increase. Their 'choice' or circumstance is not relevant to the fact. What is important is that they realise that this is a fact of life and ageing.
Biology is one thing, capacity to care for a child is another: many people at the "optimum" biological age for child-bearing are not in a position (emotional, relationship, financial or other)to undertake the huge responsibility of a child. I am 47 and find it incredible that some women my age are grandmothers! My sons are 10 and 16 and I am so grateful they were born when they were, irrespective of my age at the time.
Hilary Skipworth, Sheffield UK
I know this is a very emotional issue, but the aim of the report is to give clear, dispassionate information about the biological realities of fertility. Life is about choices, and for people to make the right choices for themselves, people need accurate information.
I think many people are looking at this report from the wrong perspective. While there are various social and financial and relationship factors that largely determine the age at which a woman eventually has a child, this has nothing to do with the medical report, which is looking at things from a purely biological perspective. If the remaining factors (financial for instance) are pushing us to the limits, then perhaps it is time for the government and society to see why this is happening. Clearly, something is wrong is the average person (or couple) just cannot afford the time or the resources to have children until they are close to the biological time limit.
Vivek, Zuerich Switzerland
This article is based on fact backed up with first hand experience. No comment was meant to be politically correct or meant to please or annoy anyone, it's basically the truth, we all know it. So if you in your late 30s and your having difficulties in having a child, then now you know why, the body's perfect time to deal with pregnancy is 20 -35. that's it! No more no less!
Contraception 'defies nature' and surely no-one in the BMJ would argue that it was wrong? Send the BMJ to wander through any city shopping centre and see the teenagers pushing buggies and then ask them what they think.
Many of my female friends in their 30's are desperate to have children, but the men in their lives want to delay, or not have children at all. Maybe it should be attributed to men in their 30s not wanting to grow up?
What alarmism! As if the pressure I feel from my family to introduce the 'pitter patter of tiny feet' to the family isn't enough....this is simply adding more pressure to someone that is aware she is the ripe old age of 27....yes, a whole 27! Nobody seems to appreciate that I can indeed hear the Big Ben style chiming from my ovaries on a monthly basis, but face a biological problem.....I need a man! I'm looking for someone that I feel I am to bring a child into the world with, and make decent parents, not someone that will do simply for reproductive purposes. It appears that this article is focussed purely on the reproductive issues, as opposed to the ensuing parenting issues, which have far wider repercussions.
Jenna, Birmingham, UK
I am sick and tired of being continually bombarded with this view that women who don't have children until their late 30s are 'wanting it all' or have 'made a conscious decision' to delay pregnancy. Like many women these days, I met and married my husband later in life and so did not have the opportunity to have children before turning 35. Ideally I would have met him years ago and this would not be an issue now but I didn't and so increased health risks and potential difficulties with conception are problems we may have to deal with when we start our family.
I don't believe that women should be made to feel guilty for supposedly not choosing to have a child on their own or with an unsuitable partner, just to ensure that they have children during the optimal breeding years! Why would anyone choose to be a single parent or bring a child into an unsuitable family relationship, which is what this article would seem to be suggesting. I also find it hard to believe that anyone would consciously consider the availability of IVF as a bit of a baby buffer whilst furthering their career or gaining security, considering the cost, time and pain involved. I hope that people will consider the possibility that for some women having children later in life is not about career, financial security or a comfortable living standard but it is simply a matter of necessity.
J Bell, Edinburgh, Scotland
I think that nature should take its course. There is a reason why all living things have offspring when they are young. It's not fair on the child to be brought into the world with instant grandparents.
Trevor, Johannesburg South Africa
Some women choose to have babies after they have left school to gain the benefits that welfare brings. Some women will choose to build a career so they can be financially secure to build a proper future for their children and make sure they are with the correct partner. This report will not change this. As there are clearly older mothers out there with perfectly normal children it does not matter if you are outside the 'ideal' window, there have been no long term studies on the children that older ladies have as far as I am aware. There is no reason to think these children would have less fulfilling lives, probably the opposite.
Joe, Nottingham, UK
The bad behaviour of many employers forces women to delay having children. I worked as a Residential Social Worker with very disturbed youngsters and was told by my manager that I could not expect to be protected from assault if I became pregnant. I found a new job and was bullied into leaving when I became pregnant.
I agree that it is prudent to wait until you are financially stable to start having children, but to state the obvious, people rarely consider themselves to have enough money, meaning that people will just get into an endless cycle of saying that they will have children when they have a bit more money.
Graeme Phillips, Guildford, UK
My Mother was an older parent when she had my brother and sister. I say have children when you can afford to have them and not just for the sake of having them. There is a lot of single mums out there who do a fantastic job, but sadly there is a lot who don't.
Dave, Salisbury Wiltshire
We have a beautiful 7-month-old daughter who was born when my wife was 36. We found out the facts in advance - the risk of birth defects increases from 1 in a large number to (say) 2 in a large number. So much for statistics! We are lucky and very, very blessed. To any 30-somethings who are thinking of children I would say go for it - but be prepared for the extra strain of sleeplessness and possible bad backs from carrying your little one.
David Landy, Bristol, UK
Seems like 'defy nature' was a bad choice of words - especially from doctors who routinely help us defy nature on a day to day basis. It's an obvious truth that the older you are, the less energetic a parent you can be, the more beat up your body is and the less likely you to are to be at your best - regardless of your gender. I suspect far more people leave having children late and have fewer for financial reasons. Yes this can be about your career, but it's just ludicrously patronising to women to suggest this is about your career - who wants to raise kids in a rented one bedroom flat? Who wants to raise kids that you can't afford to send to university? Or given assistance to when it's their turn to get onto the housing ladder?
Tom, London, UK
I am 31 and had my 2 wonderful children at what the BMJ consider to be "the right ages" of 21 and then 25. I took all of the advice going, no smoking/drinking, regular exercise etc, and my daughter is severely autistic. There is no history of autism in my family, and to all intents and purposes, my pregnancy was textbook. Nature is as nature does and I think age is totally irrelevant as far as how your baby will be health-wise. The statement of having children earlier in life almost sounds like a guarantee that if you have your baby early in life - it will be perfect - which is clearly not the case
Sarah Howes, Gravesend, Kent
I started trying to have a baby at 30. Nine years later after surgery (not age related), 4 lots of IVF (nothing to do with my age), a stillbirth (ditto) and a miscarriage (ditto) I have a beautiful healthy baby daughter, conceived naturally, (no idea how!) who has made me completely happy. I am 39. Should I have stopped trying at 35? I think not. Life is full of risks, you have to take them or what's the point? As for the idea that people should have children young just in case they find it difficult later, what sort of crazy life plan is that?
I'm 41 next month and just under going my 2nd IVF treatment. After the first failed in the spring and before that I had an eptopic in September 2004! The reason I'm planning a family in my 40's is because of a chain of circumstances which did not lead me into the perfect relationship to start a family! I didn't meet my partner, Jason until I was 31 and wanting to get to know each other first left babies until mid 30s. However, we did not anticipate what followed! We also did not know that women do not qualify for assisted fertility, IVF after late 30s. This age range can also differ and depends on where you live! Jason wrote to our MP expressing concerns over being left without support or knowledge from our GP, who we visited early on when nothing had happened, age 36. By age 39 we were classed as old and a "special case". This IVF treatment may be the last one due to my hormone levels growing older than me! I think it has to be a personal decision and no one has the right to judge until they know all the facts. How many dog or horse breeders consider an animal's age when breeding from aged animals? Some of these are helped by artificial means too! Three of my best old school friends are in their 40s and still hoping to find Mr Right and maybe have time on their side to start a family. Thank you to all those who think first and consider all the facts before having an opinion on women, like me, who want a baby.
Wendy Deacon, Doncaster
The best age for a woman to have a baby is when she thinks it is the right time with the right partner. I met my husband when I was 30 and it took several years to have a baby. Not a choice but a fact.
I am very sad that so many people in their 20s are saddled with huge debts and so can't afford to have children. I had my children in my 20s as soon as I had finished my degree. We had very little money, but managed without any state benefits. Now students leave college with huge debts and house prices and rentals are so expensive that even if you find the right man both of you need to work full time to keep a roof over your head. Careers can wait, there's loads of time when your children are grown up to build a career, but your 20s are an ideal time to have babies. I worry that my daughters will not be able to afford to make the choices I could make. I urge the government to scrap tuition fees and pay parents (either fathers or mothers) to stay at home with young children. I would happily pay higher taxes for this.
Even at 24, I questioned whether I have left it too late to start a family not just for health reasons but what happens if I want more children after my first or will I be able to carry on a career later on to support my family. There are too many myths and stories about what's good, what's not, what's right and what's wrong in life that so many men and women are confused. Who exactly has the right to tell a single human being how and when to live each moment of their life? If a couple decide for whatever reason be it nature or their own beliefs to start a family later in life it really is up to them at the end of the day.
I had my daughter at 36, my mother had her children at 37 and 39, my aunt at 41 and 43. I've just met a woman who married at 35, then had a daughter at 40 and a son at 46! None of us had purposely put off having children, nor did we "try for children", but we all married late, because it just happened that way! There is no point in getting married merely to produce children. Surely it is better to risk not having children than to marry in haste?
Victoria Fontaine-Wolf, Folkestone, Kent
My mum had me when she was 42. She is now 65 and I have never thought of my mum as old. While I was growing up, I had a good upbringing and I'm a more responsible person for it. I'm also the youngest of six kids. Bottom line is I would rather have an older mum who looked after me while I was a kid, than a young one who couldn't care less. I rest my case.
So who is to blame, the BMJ, or nature? There are good reasons for delaying motherhood, sadly not good enough to convince Mother Nature. You have to want kids more than a career.
Stefan, Stourbridge, UK
Having a young mum, I get all the benefits of a parent's wisdom as well as her youthful energy, friendship and understanding. I am 24 and a few years older than when she fell pregnant. I think the degradation of society plays a major role in the failure of first marriages and inability for women to find a secure relationship, irrespective of career intentions. I don't think parents should have children intentionally after 45, is unnatural, unsafe and more importantly the child would never get the bond I have. Would the average 60-year-old parent jump into a swimming pool fully clothed for a laugh?
Can I please say that while I do not see older mothers a particular problem, in my own personal opinion I had my children young so I was fit enough to enjoy them. As for all mothers in their 20s claiming off the state, or not having children till older because of focus on career, I had my first daughter during my first degree (maths) and my second daughter during my masters (statistics) I have worked since leaving university, have a very good career, earn more than most people my age and have never claimed off the state. I think people should stop tarring demographic groups with the same brush, and accept we are all different.
Kathryn May, Liverpool
Not everybody "waits" until their late 30s to have children, very often it just happens that way. Life does not always follow the neat preconceptions spouted by "leading obstetricians". Quite apart from those who have problems conceiving (a problem not limited to older women, by the way), there are thousands of woman in their late 30s who would love to have children but do not or cannot because they are single. Should we all be rushing down to the sperm bank regardless of whether we have the finances, energy or stamina to bring a child into the world alone?
As a scientist I am deeply offended by the comments made by these 'leading obstetricians'. The entire medical field is based on 'defying nature' by improving health. Women are not stupid. They know the risks. Our modern medicine allows them to become an active participant in their choices regarding when to become pregnant. There are also a number of risks associated with women having children too young, both physiologically and psychologically. Should women 'settle' for a less than optimal life partner just because they are in their 'childbearing years'? Why should women have children just because they are 'afraid' of the future. Isn't the concept of 'older' women who are better educated, more mature and more financially and possibly emotionally secure be optimal for child bearing and child rearing?
Joan P Forder, PhD, Toronto Canada
Spare a thought for older fathers too. My wife and I married last year: she is 36 and was married before and has two boys aged 16 and 17. We are hoping to add to the family so I am a potential first-time father at 50. Quite how I will cope with a 15-year-old when I am at retirement age I am not sure.
Trevor Elliston, Limassol, Cyprus
As a child of older parents (42 and 50 when I came along) I think that I had a more 'stable' upbringing than friends with younger parents. They had a settled marriage, more money than they had in their twenties and generally had more life experience. I have never felt any stigma or difference (in fact lots of my friends have parents of a similar age) and consider myself to have had a wonderful childhood. Indeed it was others who were embarrassed when I explained that my 'grandfather' was actually my Dad. My only regret is that my Dad will never meet any children I may have (I'm 32) but that could have happened even if he had been younger.
Claire, Lewes, UK
Not everyone waits - some of us try for years before successfully having a child, and end up older than we would want. A baby is a miracle - let's not forget that they are hard work too though.
Jenny, Berkshire, UK
Why would anyone expect modern mothers to not 'defy nature' when the whole of modern life is about that very thing. Having a baby at any time is the most natural thing possible in an unnatural world.
Chris Gelauf, Southampton UK
I had my son when I was 31, and believe me having a baby at 31 is considered late pregnancy in India. There is no best time to choose to have a baby, but surely you should feel that you are contented and satisfied with all the choices you made so far in life and it's time for yet another satisfying experience of life.
My mother had me at 40 for the same reasons as I had my children in my late 30s - because it took until then to meet our husbands. This wasn't down to putting our careers above love or children. It just happened that way. Have any of your researchers thought that that might be the case with a proportion of the 'older mothers' whom you include in your conclusion?
Fiona Robertson, York, UK
I believe it is defying nature to wait too long to start a family, but I also understand that it is not always possible to start a family when you wish. I also believe that we should be more open-minded about the future and consider what we might choose to do if having your own children is not possible. Adopting or fostering should not be ruled out. But it should be consider while you are still in your 20s, not when it is too late.
Amanda, Chesham, Bucks
I had a child at 45. I conceived naturally within weeks of deciding to try. I had no problems during the pregnancy. I had a caesarean delivery but that happens at all ages as it did to me previously at age 34. I think the reports are alarmist and are ignoring the fact that actually the best time to have a baby is when you want one. Of course some risks are higher when one is older but a 3% chance of Downs Syndrome means a 97% chance of not having it.
Jane Honey, Oxfordshire, UK
It's time to realise that the current situation has far more to do with the current dynamics of the British economy, many women can simple not afford to have children when they are the ideal "breeding age". Even if they are in a relationship much of the couples income will be spent on the mortgage and food with very little left over for anything else let a lone raising a child.
The only person who can decide when is the right time to have a child is the woman in question. Teenage girls or 70 year old women; we are constantly criticised for the one thing that men cannot do. Our bodies, our minds our rights; is there anything wrong with Madonna's children or Liz Hurley's? The real threat is that by having children later, women are more in control of their lives, careers and their relationships. Oh dear, help us from that. How many of these leading obstetricians are men I wonder?
Clare, Isleworth, Middlesex
No reason to be furious with the BMJ. They are merely stating a fact - that as a woman gets older, she may find it more and more difficult to conceive. It certainly is up to her and her partner to make their own decision. Isn't it always better to be aware of all the facts, to know of all the pros and cons and not be taken by surprise later on in life?
I'm 40 and my partner 38 who yesterday at 4:30pm gave birth to our son. Since day one, I have always had the risks in the back of my mind but last night, and this morning, when I looked into his little sleeping face, I would say any risk was worth it. I can't imagine anyone else in my position saying otherwise either.
Simon, London, UK
My mother had me when she was 17, and always advised me to wait until I was much, much older. I think this report is deeply patronising. Women know the risks but we don't always have a choice. I lost both my parents in my twenties and simply wouldn't have been able to have a child at that stage. I didn't meet the most wonderful man until I was 35. Who really knows how their life will work out? As for kids being embarrassed by their (older) parents - kids are always embarrassed by their parents.
Jessica, Birmingham, England
We defy nature every time we have surgery, take medicine or even climb aboard a plane. I really don't think it matters when a woman has children, as long as they are aware of the added health risks that go with a later birth. If the parents are more mature in life then perhaps they will be less inclined to let the kids run wild and turn into yobs.
With the housing market the way it is, is it any wonder woman are waiting until they are well into their 30s. Most young couples, like me, are struggling to get onto the housing ladder. If we can't afford our own homes how are we supposed to think about starting a family?
Angela Curran, Edinburgh, UK
The doctors are not being insensitive - just stating the obvious. Perhaps the biggest problem is that too many couples wait until they can "afford" children - forgetting that for most people, this time will never arrive. Real sacrifices have to be made and that's a very unfashionable idea these days.
AJ, Alton, England
I would argue that the political and cultural climate in the United States has a tremendous influence on the average age of women getting pregnant here. My wife and I refuse to bring a child into this world until we are sure we are financially secure. Most sociologists and economists agree that having children without any support is the quickest route to poverty.
Josh G, Columbus, Ohio, United States
Practically everything we do these days "defies nature". If we obeyed the imperatives of nature, there'd be a lot of starving children in Britain whose parents were incapable of supporting them. At least older parents are generally capable of supporting their own offspring without the "unnatural" assistance of welfare.
Jamie Shepherd, UK
I am 26 and it is impossible for me to even contemplate motherhood. I have not yet repaid the £10,000 debt I acquired at university and I can't even afford to buy a small terraced house in which to raise a family. My partner and I need to work for several more years until we can support a child financially without benefits. This isn't a lifestyle choice, it is the government's fault for the extortionate price of living.
Amanda, Manchester, UK
Not all women "wait" until their thirties before having children. Many women are now not getting married or entering long term relationships till their 30 something. My wife is expecting our first child. We met five years ago, both of us then in our late thirties.
Mark, Bicester, UK
I totally agree with the main sentiment reflected in people's responses. I'm 33 and have just left a six year relationship that was going nowhere. I would love to have children, but am now resigning myself to the fact that, according to the media, by the time I meet someone and settle down enough to know I want to have children with them, it is likely to put my health at risk. To be childless at my age has certainly not been a conscious decision - merely a fact of the society we live in.
We had our son when we were in our late 30s. We have a lovely son and are very close as a family. Parents who have children later are usually more mature and wiser, and are in a better financial position. Families should do what's right and comfortable for them, because stability next to love is what our children need.
Martin Parkes, Hemel Hempstead
I always thought I'd have kids in my early 20s like my mum, but after a few disastrous boyfriends I'm finally trying for babies with a lovely man - and I'm nearly 32. I never made a choice to delay pregnancy. Do they really think women focus on careers and pick their time for a baby like they're fitting in a shopping trip? What rubbish! After growing up without my father around, I wanted to have my babies with someone nice who'd stay around, not my fault I didn't meet him sooner.
Ezmeralda, Bangor, Wales
I was 29 when I met my future husband and 31 when I married. Since the day I married friends and family have constantly made comments about my biological clock and I wish they would all mind their own business! I have not deliberately delayed motherhood; I simply didn't meet my wonderful husband until a bit later in life. I am a totally different person now than I was 10 years ago and I now feel ready to consider "my family". If we cannot conceive then we will deal with it and consider adoption as I don't believe in IVF for me personally. But in a country ruined by social irresponsibility and young single mothers, the BMJ should be more considerate in their comments. All women are well aware of tick tick tick...
Life is not always a diary to be set in stone. Dawn and I had twins late in life. What is important though is to enjoy the gift whenever it happens
Brian Healy, Ilkeston. England
I had my children later in life (at 35, 37 and 42) because I did not meet my husband until later. The statement that we are leaving it later on purpose is sexist and unfair. It is something which cannot be avoided in most cases. The number of high-powered career women are minimal compared to ordinary people who have perhaps second marriages / partners. My children are happy and healthy and are being brought up by mature, balanced parents. Children of older parents are less likely to come from broken homes as the parents have experienced life more.
Ishbel Rose, Grantown on Spey, Moray
So you'd rather a lot of single mothers in their 20's claiming off the state. That just about sums up Britain! I 'waited' until I was in my 30's and after waiting months/years for fertility tests which mostly was self funded I am now pregnant at 39. I am not a career woman just working to pay a mortgage and live a happy life without relying on handouts
I am 39 and expecting my first baby in a matter of weeks! My wife is 41, has been married before, and has two wonderful teenage children. Despite the potential risks of having a child in her forties, my wife did not want to prevent me from missing out on having a child, saying I'll be a wonderful father. If a child is wanted and will be loved, what is wrong in having a child later in life, surely better than a younger woman having an unplanned, unwanted child!
Steve, Ipswich, UK
I read this article and was angered by it, basically because it seems to tar all 'older' women with the same brush. In many cases, the opportunities to have children earlier simply isn't there - I only found my husband when I was 35 and now I have been diagnosed with endometriosis, so I have to try for a child in my later years. Where is the compassion for women in my circumstances?
Mrs F, Lincolnshire
I knew it was a straight choice - career or children, and although I loved my career, I have never regretted giving it up for my four children. I had 16 years as "just" a mother and housewife, it's true we weren't well off, but believe me, there are compensations!
Pamela Ross, Cawood, North Yorkshire
It makes me so mad to hear everyone banging on about women "leaving it too late" to have children. Like we have a choice! I am 32, single, and would love to meet a decent bloke, get married and have a child however, the total lack of any available, normal, decent men who can commit even to having a second date with a woman, never mind even think about a relationship, marriage and children, has left me in total despair! All of my friends are also single, and say the same thing, and trust me, it's not even like we're all that choosey!
Mairi, London, UK
I'm 30, and am already well aware that any potential partner of a similar age is likely to be hounding me to have children sooner rather than later. I've experienced this plenty of times already. The BMJ's "advice" only adds to the pressure. The only choice left for me is to date younger women so I can enjoy a relationship without that Sword of Damocles hanging over me. It's just a happy coincidence that they've also got less wrinkles.
Matt, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (ex. UK)
This is hardly a matter of opinion - Nature makes certain decisions for us and one of those is that fertility declines after a certain age. That age varies between individuals but sooner or later Nature makes that choice and removes the option. There are lots of reasons why people leave parenthood until later but the fact remains there is only so much time before the door is closed once and for all.
John B, UK
I desperately want to have children but my partner doesn't. I am 30, turning 31 in March and I don't know whether I should leave the man I love to find happiness and start a family with someone who does want children, or whether to stay with the man I love and hope he comes round to the idea before it is too late for me to conceive. Sometimes it isn't career that stops women getting pregnant - it's partners who put their career first and don't want to chare their attention with a baby.
I heeded the warnings and am now 33 with 3 kids and a professional job 3 days a week. Amazing that I got time to read this article! It's hard work but I'm looking forward to a prosperous and companionable old age. Not everyone can take the pace - my husband is quite stressed with it all.
Heather, Wickford, UK
I am 34 and have no children. I have not put off having children for career reasons (although I have worked all my adult life), I just have never been in a relationship that I consider stable, either emotionally or financially to bring a child into. I have recently got engaged to the most wonderful guy and we do plan to have children in a few years. But reading this report I am now concerned that I will have problems conceiving, it is a worry. I wanted any children that I have to have every advantage in life and it is only at this point in my life I am now able to give that.
I had my son when I was 38yrs old, he is now 11. I certainly didn't deliberately have him later in life because of my career, I am a hard working nurse. The reason I did not have a child in my early twenties or thirties is because I had not met my husband. I know many women who have had healthy babies in their 40's.
Melinda Finbow, Epsom
To Kiran, there is nothing wrong with having an older mum. Mine was 40 when she had my sister, and there were no problems, either physically or mentally, just a good loving relationship.
Matt Simpson, Manchester
I think these doctors are insensitive. Most women don't delay children to pursue a career, they delay having children until they have adequate circumstances to support them, whether that is having a committed partner, or a work environment where being pregnant does not mean you will be pushed out (as it does for so many women) The state rewards pregnant teenagers with housing, but not women in their mid twenties or older, and child tax credits and other benefits cannot pay for exorbitant childcare. This is more of a social issue than a medical one.
Carole, SE London
I am now 33 and have been trying to conceive for nearly 2 years. Up until I was 31 I didn't have any inclination to have children and then my biological clock started ticking. Should I have tried for a child when I was younger even though it was not 'wanted'?
Supercali, Norfolk, UK
How can one possibly afford having children!? I would love to have some but with £106 per week maternity pay I could only count with leaving on the street!
Not every woman wants to have children at all. Many aren't decided either way, and practically speaking the disadvantages are huge. Personally, professionally, financially and not to mention the risk to one's health and possibilities of permanent damage including incontinence and loss of sexual function which can really put a crimp in your marriage. For all of these reasons the assumption that women are stupid for not doing it earlier is very insulting. We all know we're supposed to do it while we're young, nobody ever shuts up about it. We don't do it because we don't want to. Changing your mind later may happen to some but that's life. It's none of it easy.
May I pre-empt those who will say that women make a 'lifestyle choice' to delay pregnancy? I am trying to conceive at 33. I did not choose a career ahead of a child; I chose to delay conception until I was happily married so that I could provide a stable family for my child. Unfortunately, men of my age are less likely to want to commit to such an idea in their 20s - the stats show that men marry later than women after all. I have not been irresponsible in my choices. Ironically, the wait for the most fundamental tests will push me over the 35 years old mark at which time my fertility will reduce further and more treatment may need to take place as a consequence.
I am 26 now but I can't see myself having the children I'd like for another 10 years. More to the point though I don't think the state can help me very much. I want to develop my career where I can take the time out for a family without doing too much damage to it (I guess the state could help with the financial side to this). I also really want to interrupt that career development to spend some time working in India and I don't think giving up this ambition would make me a happy mother or give out a good message to any daughter I may have. There are no easy answers to life's conundrums and I think the best compromise for me now is to take the risk of infertility in my late thirties. Hence I fully intend to put Dr Bewley's warnings aside, get on with my life without worrying and face whatever happens when it happens.
At 22 I had my daughter, I was told I was too young by family members and now cannot get a decent job as employers seem to focus on my child and the potential for her to "interfere" with my reliability. If I had known then what I know now I would have delayed motherhood, and am certainly not planning on any more children for at least ten years, I am now 25. I feel that even by doing that I am risking building a career against the presumption that I will take days off the moment my child catches a cold, and then loosing it all by having more children anyway... Wake up society. The choice is still clear, have a career or have children late. I would advise other women to leave it and take the gamble.
Victoria Finney, Brighton
It ought to be remembered that some couples simply don't get together until the woman is in her thirties - it simply isn't the case that all women who have babies in their thirties have 'waited' until then to have them. For quite a few of us that's simply how life has gone!
K, Swindon, England
Do women really want babies anymore? I thought they all wanted to turn into men and most are indeed. Ok, maybe just 1 baby for ancient traditions sakes or continuity. Physical abnormalities are probably just less than 1% of the issue. The issue is more about social and psychological conditioning and who controls the minds and thinking and wombs and the kids and the future!
Anon, Bombay, India
I can understand how many women these days are career orientated, and would rather have a family second to a career, but I think that it is a wrong choice. A woman should have her child as soon as she can, it's the natural role in life, a woman is here to have children and reproduce. She should look after her child then go for her career once the child is at school. Leaving it later to have a child has little benefits for the kid apart from financial security because I am pretty sure no child wants an "old" mum. If a woman was 35 when her first child is born, by the time her kid is 18 she will be 52, enough said there.
Kiran Basra, Kettering, UK
I may not be in my 20's yet, but I don't want to settle down for a family at this time. I want to see the world, I want to travel. Having a child brings in invisible strings which hold you down. There is too much to see and do which needs to be seen when you are still young. There's always adoption. You don't need to have children.
Young women in Britain don't seem to be a happy bunch - increases in smoking, drinking and teenage or delayed pregnancies - gratified, but not happy.
Tariq Rashid, London, UK
I think these comments will scare women into finding a partner just to have a baby. These scaremonger comments are all very well and good as I'm sure most women would prefer to have children earlier but what happens if they haven't found love! Isn't that the reason for having a child? I think that this has been forgotten in this day and age. After all you can't hurry love !
Katy Tagg, Derby
I totally agree. My husband and I have gone through 6 IVF procedures with a lot of emotional, physical and financial upheaval to get our wonderful little boy at the age of 37 - I tell everyone I meet now, not to leave it too late.
Samantha Hanley, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela
I am 38 and it makes me furious when I hear people talking about women "delaying getting pregnant", or when I (frequently) have to listen to insensitive strangers telling me I should "hurry up" and "not leave it too late" if I want to have children. Yes, many women are having children later in life because, after studying, they want to get started in their chosen career (and pay off their student debt), instead of having children in their mid-twenties and then finding they have to either stay at home or do a less taxing job because they don't have the time, energy or freedom they need to establish themselves in a career (this was precisely what happened to my friends who had babies relatively early). But while this may be true, it is a distraction from the fact that many of us did not "choose" to wait. We simply were not fortunate enough to find a suitable partner; or we find ourselves in our late thirties with no partner at all, surrounded by people who are married with kids.