Older mothers rock

A new study dispels elder fears when it comes to mothering.

Published October 24, 2006 8:23PM (EDT)

News flash: Maturity is not incompatible with maternity! Yes, it's true. English papers are reporting on a new study that confirms that women in their 50s are just as able to cope with motherhood as women in their 30s are.

This study would contradict the "frigid old bag" theory on aging that suggests that women over 40 should not reproduce on account of being emotionally disabled and physically diminished. Seriously, that's pretty much the reason they had to do a study like this to begin with.

Though there is no technical age limit for in vitro fertilization treatments in England, the National Health Service refuses to fund fertility treatments for women over 40, and private clinics often decline to do so after age 45. In part, this is because of increased pregnancy risks for both mothers and babies, even in cases in which the eggs of a younger woman are used. But still, as science makes strides in fertility, age limitations are edging ever upward. This summer, 62-year-old Patricia Rashbrook, a child psychiatrist, became the oldest woman in Britain to have a baby.

The new study was done by fertility specialists, who asked 64 new mothers in their 50s about issues like loneliness, how much their kids cried, how their kids behaved and whether the women could walk long distances without discomfort.

According to the Guardian, older women found "parenting no more stressful or physically demanding than women in their 30s and 40s, and they showed no signs of poorer mental health possibly brought on by feelings of isolation." Oddly, parental stress was found to be lowest in women in their 30s, highest in those in their 40s, with women in their 50s hovering in between.

Gillian Lockwood, medical director at Midland Fertility Services, made an excellent point to the Guardian, noting that she does not "agree with the view that men may father a child into their late 80s, but it's wrong for women to want to extend their fertility after 45. That's ageist and sexist."

By Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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