Birth rates tend to change slowly over time, but there is a surprising age group that has seen a large increase over the last decade.
When you start a family is a personal decision. It’s a decision that can be motivated by many different factors such as financial comfort, career, location, age, relationship status and health — among many others. Usually childbearing is done by the time a woman reaches her mid-40s, but recent stats show that women in their 50s are having babies and those types of births are on the rise.
AARP shares that around 13 babies are born each week to moms who are 50 and over. This doesn’t sound like a huge number, but it represents a dramatic increase over pregnancy rates among women 50 to 54 just 13 years ago — a 165 percent increase, in fact.
The Mayo Clinic places the average age of menopause for the American woman at around 51, but usually fertility starts to wane years before the possibility of natural conception is completely gone. While becoming pregnant at age 50 or beyond is not common, it can be achieved, generally with assistive reproductive technology such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) paired with donor eggs.
There are many reasons why a woman would choose to seek pregnancy as she finishes up her fifth decade of life. Some women have delayed childbearing in favor of career advancement, and others have gotten married later in life and wanted to begin (or add to) a family with their new partner. Sometimes once the kids leave the nest, moms yearn to fill it back up again.
Technology continues to march on since the first “test tube baby,” Louise Brown, was born in England in 1978. Since then, there are more options than ever for women and couples who are experiencing infertility, and the known boundaries of what is possible continue to be pushed.
There are risks for women going through pregnancy at an advanced age, such as a higher risk of gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, preterm birth and multiples. Also, the practice is not without controversy, with some who question whether it’s ethical to seek fertility treatment once a woman has passed the age of 50. And the cost is a factor also — you can spend $25,000 to $30,000 on a single IVF attempt with donor eggs.
However, the risks and the costs are worth the reward for these new moms. As science continues to advance, it’s likely this trend will continue to climb and more women will become moms (or moms again) in their 50s.