How old is too old to have a baby?

As Janet Jackson officially confirms her first pregnancy at 50, it’s got us discussing – how old is too old to have a baby?

What’s the ideal age to become a mother? It’s the ultimate question. A new poll conducted by the Private Pregnancy UK show has revealed 44 as the point at which British women believe other females should not have children. Of the 2,019 questioned, reasons cited included an increased risk of health complications and parents not living long enough to see the child grow up. The research also revealed that almost three-quarters of women believe there’s a need for females to be better educated about their fertility, so they don’t leave it too late to have a family.

It’s a fact of life that the age of first-time mothers in the UK is increasing. In 2014, for the first time, more babies were born to mothers over the age of 35 than to those under 25. This shift in statistics is down to a number of factors, including women who wish to delay motherhood in pursuit of their careers. And what with advancements in medicine and science, such as IVF and egg freezing, the age at which women can have children is only extended.
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This comes as Janet Jackson officially confirmed her first pregnancy at the age of 50. Posing for a photoshoot with American magazine People, the singer said “We thank God for our blessing”. Nonetheless, Janet is not alone in becoming pregnant at an older age; Geri Horner this week announced her second pregnancy at the age of 44, and Jools Oliver, wife of chef Jamie, recently gave birth to her fifth child, River, at the age of 41.

Despite these demographical changes, there’s one thing that certainly isn’t changing – our biological clocks. At birth, females are born with all the eggs they will ever produce. These slowly dwindle over time, making it harder to conceive naturally the older you get. Dr Amin Gorgy, fertility consultant and IVF specialist at The Fertility & Gynaecology Academy, reminds us of this fact:

“The ideal age for women to become pregnant is in their twenties and early thirties. A woman’s fertility potential declines rapidly after the age of 35 and drops even faster after the age of 40. Indeed, successful egg freezing through vitrification has made it possible for women to postpone conception to later in life but as a society, we should be encouraging couples to have children at a younger age. In fact, I recommend that couples should aim to complete their families by the age of 35.”

Cover of People magazine, featuring exclusive photoshoot with Janet Jackson

And in world news, an Indian woman and her husband, who are both in their 70s, have welcomed the birth of their baby boy after successful IVF treatment. In India, infertility is sometimes seen as a curse from God, and adoption is not allowed over the after of 45.

Deciding to have a baby is most certainly a life-changing decision. And despite best-laid plans, the path to motherhood doesn’t always run smoothly. With so many factors to consider, including childcare, careers and finances, it is no surprise that we don’t all have children at the same time; we are all different, after all, and what may work for one woman, may not for another.