Feature Archive

Mother, May I? Late Motherhood Emerges

No. 10 of the Top 10 Stories of 2004: The number of women getting pregnant in their middle years is rising. But is later really better than never?

By Colette Bouchez
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario

When actress Geena Davis gave birth to twins earlier this year, her age -- nearly 48 at the time -- became the bigger story. Likewise, a swell of publicity surrounded Elizabeth Edwards, wife of recent vice presidential candidate John Edwards, when it was learned that she too got pregnant at age 48, and again when she was nearly 50.

Soon after, however, both women began to seem like "younger moms" when in November of this year headlines touted the birth of twins to a 57-year-old, single, first-time mom, Aleta St. James from New York City.

Indeed, while the term "older mother" once referred to women who conceived around age 30, today our birthing timeline has moved significantly, with the number of much-older women becoming first-time mothers on the rise.

"There is no question that the age where getting pregnant is considered a possibility is definitely expanding -- we are continuing to push the time line up and up and have been doing so since the 1980s," says Frederick Licciardi, MD, associate director of the NYU Program for IVF, Reproductive Surgery, and Fertility in New York City.

A new report issued this month by the CDC control verifies that a greater number of older women are getting pregnant. The birth rate for women aged 30 to 34 increased by just 4% in 2003, while those giving birth between 40 and 44 rose 5%.