According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics, more American women are becoming first-time mothers at an older age than ever before. There were more than nine times as many first births to mothers age 35 and older in 2012 than there were in the 1970s.
Experts credit both societal changes and advances in medicine for this new trend. Women today are more likely to pursue a higher level of education and focus on their careers, and are therefore delaying marriage and childbirth until they’re older. Having children later in life is also a more accepted option, especially considering the many improvements in health care and fertility technology that can now help women get pregnant when nature alone doesn't work.
This trend is reflected across women of all races and ethnicities, with the largest increase in the number of older first-time moms ages 40 to 49 among non-Hispanic black women, where the rates increased by 171 percent (from 1990 to 2012) and for non-Hispanic white women during the same time span, reporting a 130 percent gain.
Doctors agree that overall women are more confident that later motherhood is a safe and realistic option, although they remind us to be aware of the challenges. Women over the age of 35 who are considering motherhood should develop a strategy to have the healthiest and safest pregnancy possible. If they’re not pregnant after six months of trying, they should consult their ob-gyns.