Double the number of children born to women over the age of 45

August 22, 2018 - 06:20

Scandinavian women are waiting longer to have children. Last year in Norway, 138 women over age 45 had children – twice as many as ten years earlier, according to figures from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway.

It is becoming increasingly popular for women who are well over age 40 to have children in Norway. (Photo: Sara Johannessen / NTB Scanpix)

Putting off parenthood is a continuing trend among Nordic women – and their partners. Norwegian first-time mothers were on average 29 years old in 2017, the same as in Sweden in 2016.

In Oslo, the average age of women giving birth for the first time is 31 years old.

More women are also having children well into adulthood. The Danish celebrity Brigitte Nielsen had her fifth child last year at age 54, reports the Norwegian online newspaper VG.

The number of mature mothers is also growing in the other Nordic countries.

More women over 49 giving birth

In Sweden, the number of children born to mothers aged 49 or older has been rising steadily – from 22 in 2010 to 69 in 2017 – according to the Swedish healthcare newspaper dagensmedicin.se.

The Medical Birth Registry of Norway shows the same trend in Norway. In the last four years, from 2014 to 2017, between 10 and 20 women 49 years or older had children each year. This is a clear increase from previous years.

Double the number of first-time 45+ moms

According to the same Medical Birth Registry, 2000 women between 40 and 44 years old gave birth last year.

A total of 138 women aged 45 or over had children in 2017. Ten years earlier, only half as many – 68 women – gave birth in that age group. Almost half lived in Oslo or Akershus.

Mature mothers are now far more prevalent than the youngest teen mums. Only 80 girls aged 17 or younger had children in Norway last year, compared with 271 in 2007.

Conditions have improved

There are several reasons women are waiting longer to have children, according to adjunct senior lecturer and head physician Kenny Rodriguez-Wallberg at Karolinska University Hospital.

Various types of assisted fertilization have improved, but life choices have also changed.

"Men and women value taking their education to a higher level and want to do a lot of different things before establishing a family," she says.

Increased risk of complications

Many doctors warn women against postponing having children for too long. Older women more often experience complications during pregnancy and more complicated births than younger women.

Older women also have an increased risk of stroke if they run into complications like pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure or gestational diabetes, writes the Norwegian online newspaper ABC Nyheter.

A previous ScienceNordic article reported that women in their 40s have three times the risk of having a Caesarean section compared to women in their early 20's.

Not necessarily risky

Oslo University Hospital lowered the age restriction to receive IVF treatment – one type of assisted reproduction – to age 38 a few years ago.

This led to increased demand at private clinics. Many women also go abroad for assistance.

Rodriguez-Wallberg believes it is important to assess the risk of pregnancy at such a high age based on individual circumstances.

"A 45-year-old woman can be very healthy, and then conditions are in place for things to go well," she says.

Socially, however, there can be challenges. Fifty-five year old Brigitte Nielsen, known for her role in the movie Rocky IV and for her marriage with Sylvester Stallone, is not going to pick up her daughter in kindergarten. She’s afraid that people will think she’s the grandmother.

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Read the Norwegian version of this article at forskning.no.

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