Older mums on top ... for now

Angela Ekert likes to joke with people that there is "just a small gap" between her first and second children.

Ten days ago Ekert, 46, gave birth to Elyssa, a quarter of a century after her first daughter.

Giving birth at her age is not unusual. New figures show a record 12,800 babies were born to women over 40 last year - up from 7100 a decade earlier.

As an older mother, Ekert feels more patient and attentive the second time, and is blessed with a supportive partner.

"I also feel I am in a much better financial situation," she said.

But she worried that time was not on her side. "With my 25-year-old daughter we're able to go shopping, and we went on holidays together last year. I'm hoping I'll be around to do those things with Elyssa as well - but I'll be 71 when she's 25."

The trend in late births is not new. Peter McDonald, a professor of demography at the Australian National University, said late births were far more common in the 19th century.

"Back then a lot of women had more than 10 births. They were continually giving birth every two years until well into their 40s.

"Older births began to grow again about a decade ago, primarily because women had been postponing having their first child, which delayed subsequent births. In vitro fertilisation has also boosted late births."

Professor McDonald said the drift towards later births would soon slow, and a report by the Bureau of Statistics bears this out. Although the proportion of late births continued to rise last year, the typical age of mothers giving birth fell by a month from 30 years and eight months in 2006.

He said that was explained by a change in women's behaviour in the mid-2000s. Some brought births forward in response to publicity about the dangers of waiting, and perhaps the introduction of the baby bonus.

The story Older mums on top ... for now first appeared on Essential Baby.

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