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Too old to become a parent?

Delaying childbearing is now more common, with education and careers taking preference. Stable relationships appear to be increasingly difficult to establish as well, also contributing to delay in childbearing. The result of these changes is that more and more women start thinking about conceiving once they are already over the age of 30.A big positive is that older parents are more likely to be able to provide the financial needs required to raise a child.

The ovaries contain a finite number of eggs. Reduced availability of eggs and poorer quality are associated with increased reproductive difficulty as women age. Under 30 years, only 5% to 10% of couples face infertility problems. By the age of 40, over 40% of couples have problems conceiving. And over the age of 45, women rarely conceive on their own or with assisted reproductive technology (ART),ART may compensate for some of the reduction in fertility,but cannot completely make up for the biological changes.

There are known medical risks with childbearing at advanced ages. Pregnancies that are conceived in women over 35 are complicated by higher miscarriage rates, higher death rates of the unborn baby and more medical complications during pregnancy. Maternal death rates are also several-fold higher.Even if a pregnancy progresses uneventfully and results in the delivery of a healthy child, one has to consider the chronic medical problems that affect women in the fourth through sixth decades of life.

Such medical problems in older parents have a negative effect in raising up a child. A child born to older parents may face relationship or emotional problems with his or her parents due to the big age gap. The interests of children born of older parents need to be considered. Should the parents become incapable of fulfilling their parental responsibilities, it will become the responsibility of the society to provide care for these children. According to a 2011 report, an Italian court took a 1-year-old child away from a couple as they were considered too old to be fit parents.The mother was aged 57, while the father was 70 years. The child had been conceived through ART treatment.

The current ART practice of freezing eggs for future use, or using donated eggs has its role. Women can delay childbearing for as long as it is biologically possible, with such back-up plans. But caution is warranted in pregnancies beyond the fourth decade, and especially in the menopausal years. Those who cannot complete their desired family size early enough for various reasons should undergo a thorough medical evaluation before contemplating pregnancy. Setting an upper parental age limit may be prescriptive, but this may ensure parents will be available for their children until they reach adulthood.

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Delaying childbearing is now more common, with education and careers taking preference. Stable relationships appear to be increasingly difficult to establish as well, also contributing to delay in childbearing. The result of these changes is that more and more women start thinking about conceiving once they are already over the age of 30.A big positive is that older parents are more likely to be able to provide the financial needs required to raise a child.

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