Average Childbearing Age Continues to Rise

Cristen Conger

Presumably as more women elect to postpone building families in favor of building careers, the age of childbearing women continues to rise, the Guardian reports. While the average maternal age has only climbed about a year from 28.4 years old to 29.4 years old over the past decade, the number of women having kids in their 40s has shown dramatic growth in England and Wales. And while the overall birth rate has dropped, the opposite has happened among older mothers.

From the Guardian: "While fertility rates for women under 35 fell last year, they rose among 35- to 39-year-olds by 1.2%, and among 40- to 44-year-olds by 2.4%."

A similar motherhood trend is happening in the states, according to stats from U.S. Health and Human Services. More women than ever before are having children in their mid-30s and 40s. And while only 2.6 percent of U.S. births were to women between 40 and 44 years old, that represents a 70 percent jump since 1990.

Since the risk of birth defects also increases with age, the data inevitably raise the question of the health issues associated with women having children later in life. And there's arguably a social taboo associated with older mothers as a result. But if these women are able to exercise more choice in family planning and freedom to pursue education and careers (and, one could argue, set themselves for better healthcare and childcare down the road), then I'd say it's a positive trend overall.