Implications of Delayed Motherhood

More women are deciding to hold off on having children until they are older and more stable in various areas of life (career, money, relationship), and this trend has caught the eye of a researcher at the University of Huddersfield. Kirsty Budds has been studying the topic of “delayed motherhood” and all the implications it has for older mothers.

According to a university press release, Budds suggests that having children later is not the “selfish choice” that it’s been made out to be. Her findings indicate that, contrary to what some may believe, that women are not necessarily choosing to be older mothers, they are not putting their careers before everything else, and they are not trying to put themselves and their children at risk for health problems.

“For a lot of women, it isn’t a selfish choice but is based around careful decisions, careful negotiations, and life circumstances, such as the right partner and the right financial position,” Budds stated in the press release. “These women are effectively responsibly trying to produce the best situation in which to have children, which is encouraged societally, but then they are chastised because they are giving birth when older, when it is more risky.”

She said the idea that older mothers face more of a health risk is changing; women used to be told that 35 the cutoff to ensure optimal health, but now they are hearing that they are probably safe having children up until their 40s.

Part of Budds’ research involved looking at newspaper articles that discussed the topic of delayed motherhood, and she found that many articles described older mothers as being selfish for choosing their careers over children. Other articles emphasized a “motherhood mandate,” where women are expected to put motherhood first before all other occupations. The media are struggling with the concept of women “having it all.”

When Budds interviewed older mothers, she found that most had experiences that were pretty similar to those of younger mothers.

Previous studies have also broached the topic of delayed motherhood. An article in the Daily Mail discusses a research study that states women who delay motherhood until after they’re settled in their careers are more at risk for postnatal depression. “Older mothers are more likely to ‘over-prepare’ for their first-born and struggle when things don’t go as planned,” according to the article.

Other articles and experts suggest delayed motherhood can be beneficial to mothers. Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author, wrote in a blog post for a leading psychology website that “40 is the new 20” for having children. She cites research that suggests older mothers tend to live longer, they’re more emotionally ready for motherhood, and they have a more stable marriage and support network. Older mothers are also more able to overcome challenges, be open to flexibility, be healthier and have healthier children, and avoid risky behaviors, which is linked to more education and stability.

Lisa Bahar, a licensed marriage and family therapist and licensed professional clinical counselor, said she doesn’t necessarily think older mothers are stigmatized and the recipients of prejudice. It mainly depends on what the social norm is at the time, and how her close social community reacts.

“If it is a norm in her community, then the stigma may be less negative than if it is not the norm,” Bahar said in an email. “People will always have their opinions. It is really up to the mother to decide if she agrees with those opinions, and if she does not, then take an empowered step to make a choice that she is comfortable with. If she is truly honest with herself and is making a decision that is based on her own maternal, spiritual, relational, and personal choice, then she is more likely to be able to manage the effects of judgment and prejudice.”

Delayed motherhood may actually have uplifting mental health consequences for mothers. “The mental health aspect is likely to be more positive if the pregnancy is planned and it is something she wants,” Bahar said. “Her priorities will shift. It is wise, if she is delaying motherhood, to seek pre-pregnancy counseling to explore areas within herself that she will by definition of being a mother change. Preparation is psychological as well as physical. The more insight she has about the reality of bringing life into the world, and the natural maternal instincts that she may encounter as she shifts her priorities, are worth exploration.”

“I have observed that those mothers that delay having a child tend to be more satisfied than not, since they are making an empowered choice,” she added.

In the United States at least, it is becoming increasingly more common for mothers to wait until they are older to have children, which could help provide more support and understanding for delayed motherhood. “The stigma of motherhood and traditional family is shifting, and the normality of women delaying motherhood is a movement at this very time in our history,” Bahar said. “Therefore, it is really up to the mother to make an informed decision medically for herself and the child as she prepares to delay having children. Stigmas are lifted by a shift in norm.”

“If a mother feels that she would like to have a child later than sooner, then concerning herself with stigma is a set-up for judgment and expectation, which can bring much disappointment and resentment,” she added. “Therefore, the more consideration a woman makes as she decides this part of her life … it is wise to seek education and understanding about the effects of her choice to delay, which will set the foundation for more comfort with her decision versus the judgment of what other individuals or groups might feel.”


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  • Rae


    September 28th, 2012 at 11:52 AM

    I have always failed to see what the big deal is about older moms.
    If this is what they choose for themselves and their families then apparently they have decided that this is what is going to work best for them.’I would far rather see older and more established families than these teen yahoos who are running around popping out kids and professing that they don’t have any idea how this happened!

  • BREN


    September 28th, 2012 at 1:14 PM


  • Kylie


    September 29th, 2012 at 8:38 PM

    Says someone who uses all caps and writes “PUHLEEZ”. Are you 16 years old Bren or do you just wish you were? Also your childish (i.e. selfish, ignorant, narrow minded) comment seems to answer itself: who wants to be 50 and running after her ten year old kid? Women in their 40s who make the decision to have a kid, that’s who.

    By the way I’m just 30 years old, so don’t assume I’m simply posting in defense of my personal parenting choices, whereas you clearly must be posting in defense of your own.

  • Lori


    September 28th, 2012 at 1:17 PM

    Well, the decision to have a baby is a personal one and I don’t think anybody else has the right to judge or say things about being selfish or anything like that about a woman who decides to have a child at a later age. After all, its not like having a child at a younger age guarantees that there will be no problems!

    A conscious decision is needed to choose when a woman wants to have a baby and that should be left to her. Saying its not right constantly be it in articles or otherwise is just prejudice and that in itself is a problem,and not the decision to have a baby at a later age!

  • Celeste


    September 28th, 2012 at 2:21 PM

    Well, well, well, opened up a can of worms here with this one I see.

    There are so many differing points of view on this topic that we could probably go on and on forever about what is the right choice and which is the wrong one. I only know what my own decision was, and I have never regretted it for a minute. When I was in my late twenties and early 30s all of my friends were getting married and having families and asking me when I was going to take the plunge and do those things too. My reply was that it just wasn’t time yet, that I had not met that right man and I certainly had no intention of going the route of motherhood alone! The right man came along and we fell in love and got married but it was not until I turned 42 that I realized that the time had to be now, I wanted a child. It took us 2 extra years to conceive but it has been the most wonderful experience. Since I waited and was more financially stable I have been able to cut back my work hours and be home for our child more than I ever could have ten or fifteen years ago. being a mother is a wonderful wonderful thing and I am so thankful that since I waited I don’t have to leave the rasing of my child to another care giver and that I can be home now and enjoy every moment.

  • rhett


    September 29th, 2012 at 5:10 AM

    But what about the energy levels? I feel that younger parents, and I don’t mean teens but parents in their 20s and 30s, will simply have a lot more energy to give to their children than older parents do.

    The oldre parents may have the money, but are they really going to have the stamiona to keep up with those younger and rambunctious kids? My inclination would be to say no.

  • KimHannah


    September 29th, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    As a female and an older mom myself, I have to say that if I had it to do all over again I think that I would have had children sooner. It isn’t that I don’t enjoy being a mom, because I do, it’s just that it has really only recently started to hit me that I will have little of my own life to enjoy once I have the kids grown and out of the house. I am not sure that my husband and I will get to have that blissful life of retirement and leisure that some of our friends have because we will still be raising those kids and paying for college. I know that this sounds pretty selfish, and I guess in some ways that it is, but it is something for those of you to think about if you are trying to decide whether to have kids now or to hold off for a while.

  • Eliza


    September 29th, 2012 at 2:30 PM

    Irrespective of what anybody else says or does,the only implications of delayed motherhood are the things you have on your mind , because biological and physical implications are pretty miniscule considering the advancements in fertility techniques.

  • Holly


    September 29th, 2012 at 5:53 PM

    @ BREN: its all personal choice isn’t it Bren? Who are we to decide what someone else does as long as its not affecting us? And hey, those caps do not make your comment seem any more important!

  • E.K


    September 29th, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    Well, at least delayed motherhood is due to conscious well-thought out ideas and planning of financial security and other things. Compare that to women having babies too early, when their bodies aren’t ready yet and due to all the unwanted pregnancies. At least the former is better in so many aspects.

    Also, the media needs to stop with this negative connotation about delayed motherhood. if it works for so many women out there, why do you cry about it?!

  • BREN


    September 30th, 2012 at 4:53 AM

    Actually Kylie, you are the one who sounds a little defensive and childish here.
    The next time I post and would like to prove a point, just for you I will make sure to bold and italicize rather than using all capitals and phonetically spelling the word which I wish to emphasize.
    Thanks by the way for emphasizing your own narrow mimdedness by attacking a fellow contributor.

  • Kylie


    September 30th, 2012 at 7:11 AM

    Perhaps you feel attacked, but it was you who attacked tens of thousands of women (at bare minimum) by trivializing their private decisions down to your own personal notion of women in their 50s being relegated to granny-dom.

    Why post an inflammatory comment if you don’t want replies?

  • Amelia


    September 30th, 2012 at 9:09 AM

    In my belief theres no thumb rule for this.if youre confident and are prepared physically n mentally n wanna have kids then theres no reason to seek others opinion.just go ahead whenever u r ready.thats when theres no pressure n u r sure u can handle motherhood.dont hurry or wait too long just coz someone else says something.theres always ppl saying all kinds of things!

  • boris


    September 30th, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    just as the concept of marriage and an ideal family is changing so is the age for women to decide to have a baby.and in the end it is personal I think rather than judging or criticizing the need is to adjust to the new trend and let other people make their own choices and decisions.

    the media needs to get rid of the negativity that it portrays about delayed motherhood too.the study referenced here describes how most of the articles have been negative about delayed motherhood.

  • BREN


    October 1st, 2012 at 4:09 AM

    I beg to differ. Perhaps you feel personally attacked but I am simply stating what I feel.

  • Madeline


    October 2nd, 2012 at 4:23 AM

    I find it very sad that we still continue to attack one another over this issues that I would have hoped would have brought us all closer together by now instead of continued to divide. Who cares when one mom chooses to have a child and another does something totally differently? It is a personal choice, right? Why is it so hard for us just to move past that pretty important little point?

  • jake r

    jake r

    October 3rd, 2012 at 4:11 AM

    Has anyone given any thought to how this affects the fathers in these childrens lives? doubtful, because the conversation always seems to revolve arund the women and what their roles are. But I fo one do not want to be an older dad, because I want to be able to run around and play and not have to worry about throwing out my back! I realize that there are a lot of differing points of view on this site and I am okay with that. everyone has his own opinion. But I just know that for me I want to have kids at a time when I can still do all of the physical things that I want to be able to do and enjoy, and I hope that I can find a woman for me who feels the same way about being a mom.

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