“Surveys show the drive to be a mother is so strong they don’t think about the problems their child will face until after the child is born,” said Dr Julianne Zweifel, a clinical psychologist at University of Wisconsin who specialises in infertility and reproductive issues.
Speaking at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Denver, she spoke of the “traumatic” effect older parents might have on their offspring.
Young children are not able to cope with the burden of ageing parents, she said. “The studies suggest it is traumatic for a child to lose a parent at a young age. Additionally the emotional impact of being a caregiver to an ageing adult can be devastating.
‘If you are a teenager you are not developmentally prepared to deal with that anguish or responsibility.”
A rise of older mothers
There has been an increase in babies born to older mothers in the past 15 years. Once referred to as ‘geriatric mothers’, women over the age of 35 are now considered ‘of advanced maternal age’ by the NHS.
There were 2048 children born to women aged 45-49 in 2016, up from 705 in 2001. Meanwhile, there were 218 babies born to those aged 50-54, rising from 53 in 2001.
Professor Geeta Nargund, from UK-based Create Fertility clinic, also spoke of the potential for birth complications with older women who make this parenting choice – particularly in those using donor eggs to get pregnant in their fifties.
She said: “It can cost the NHS hundreds of thousands of pounds to deal with pregnancy and neonatal complications such as miscarriages, pre-eclampsia, multiple births and stillbirth in these women.”
It’s not just older mothers who carry risks for children, she added. “The older fathers linked to these women also have children with a greater risk of autism and psychiatric difficulties.
“Children and teenagers need their parents to look after them, not the other way around.”
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