Old parents

Is it OK to be pregnant at 53? New York Magazine looks at Parents of a Certain Age.

Births are booming to women 45 or older, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Affluent women in their 50s are using donor eggs to give birth.

Nearly a quarter of adopted children in the U.S. have parents who are 45 and older.

“Since 2008, birthrates among women overall have declined 4 percent, as families put childbearing on hold while they ride out hard times. But among women over 40, birthrates have increased. Among women ages 45 to 49, they’ve risen 17 percent.”


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  1. Well, why not? It’s their money and their life. There are far more tragic circustances in which to be born than this. Most older people have a little common sense and know they won’t be around for Junior’s 40th birthday, and they plan their estates accordingly.

    Have you noticed people really get mad when it’s the MOM who is older, not the older dad with his trophy wife-type situation?

  2. Catherine says:

    There’s always adoption, though, isn’t there? Why put an older mom’s health at risk?

  3. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Happy Elf– I think it’s because old dad+ trophy wife means that when dad needs to go to the nursing home, it’s 40-something Mom, not the teenages or young 20 kid making the choices.

    When BOTH parents are over 50, you have the very real possibility of a college-aged or young adult kid having to make end of life decisions for them– and having to care for elderly parents when he SHOULD be embarking on his OWN life.

    Also, looking at people in their 50s, they just don’t have the same energy for toddler chasing as younger folks. Even my friends who’ve had toddlers by natural means in their 40’s (usually the last in a long line of babies) comment that it’s a lot harder than when they were younger, and that older siblings are the ones picking up the slack.

    I think there are reasons that the fertility aspect of our bodies conks out when it does– And with the huge waiting lists to adopt babies, it’s not like the older couples are ‘saving’ anyone. It’s just that adoption favors the wealthy, and the older couples have more wealth and so have an easier time adopting than a younger couple who might be around to see their child graduate college.

  4. Ted Craig says:

    The stuff of life has a shelf life. Both older eggs and older sperm increase the risk of numerous defects, from schizophrenia to autism. So, it’s not just their choice. It can be society’s problem in the long run.

    • Stacy in NJ says:

      Biology already provides the answer. Fertility and health issues and increased chance of birth defects tell us that births to older parents are less than optimum. There was a recent study the correlated the age of the father to the inceased likelihood of autism. It’s just risky.

      • Soapbox0916 says:

        I can’t believe I am writing this since I am usually organic and pro-nature, but technology can greatly minimize the risk factors for the really older parents. There are still obviously some increased risks, but with a careful selection process and optimized attention to health, the older parents that have the money and will to do this probably have less risks than one might think due solely to their age.

        Ironically, I am less worried about the super old women because I know they have to be relying on technology and some type of careful selection process.
        Really old men with young enough women that have children the old-fashioned way without any thought put into it the process, that is what really scares me because that is when the much higher risk for birth defects exists, and that has been done somewhat for ages.

  5. Michael E. Lopez says:

    When BOTH parents are over 50, you have the very real possibility of a college-aged or young adult kid having to make end of life decisions for them– and having to care for elderly parents when he SHOULD be embarking on his OWN life.

    Well there’s a culturally biased statement for you.

    Not that I disagree — but let’s have some perspective, please. It’s not every culture that treats its 17-24 year-olds like they are children.

  6. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Wasn’t there a spate of articles a few years back about how tragic it is for grandparents to have to step in and raise their grandkids, and how it took a toll on grandma and grandkid alike?

    So why is it suddenly better if it’s a parent who’s the same age as grandpa?

    (Also, I just realized, Happy Elf Mom– we’ve had a few really old dad, young trophy wife, small child situations in my extended family, and the overwhelming attitude was one of extreme disapproval mixed with pity for the kid. So it may not really be the double standard you think it is…. it’s just that we’ve been clucking out tongues over the old men with babies for many years…..)

  7. Yeah, that’s what’s burdening society — high-education, high-income families and individuals deciding to spend lots of their own money to adopt or use medical technology to have children. Please.

    Good for them.

  8. Soapbox0916 says:

    Well, since my parents were easily old enough to be my grandparents when I was born, I can speak from some experience on this. I have done a lot of research on this topic through the years .

    Since it is a lot easier to establish that a particular child belongs to a particular mother, unfortunately a lot of birth defects have been blamed on mothers unfairly. I also think male pride and the success of a few older men that are really the exception to the rule have given men the false impression that they had all the time in the world to have kids.

    Women are more likely to suffer infertility and miscarriages than pass on birth defects. It has to do with the nature of eggs. When it comes to birth defects, it is not so much about the actual age of the egg as it is about factors that happen over time to deteriorate the condition of the egg. Not all eggs deteriorate at the same pace, and some older women actually have youthful condition eggs, and some young women have really fragile eggs. Time is only one factor.

    Plus for women to freeze their eggs while younger or use a selection process that selects for the best quality egg, a whole lot can be determined just by the physical condition of the egg, technology can really lessen the risks of birth defects for an older woman.

    Ironically, with men, I think technology has less of an impact on avoiding birth defects. The problem is that for one sperm to be successful, it takes a ton of sperm to reach threshold. So if a man has a mixture of good and bad sperm, which is likely for an older man, then the good sperm can unfortunately help a bad sperm fertilize the egg.

    A woman really only has to select for one good egg and this can be helped with technology, while a man needs a ton of good sperm. The fact that a mixture of bad and good sperm can result in a pregnancy means that for a child that makes it to birth, the birth defect is more likely to come from the father. Key word is child makes it to birth, birth defects from the woman is more likely to result in the child not making it to birth.

    Studies that have looked at both the age of the woman giving birth and the age of the child’s father, it was the age of the child’s father than had the biggest impact. Older women with much younger partners only showed a slight increase in risk of birth defects. What really worries me is two older parents, so maybe we should mandate that if an older woman has a child, that they can only do so if they have a much younger partner. (I am somewhat joking).

    Looking at both sides, just because by nature, women lose their ability to become pregnant is not the same thing as risk of birth defects. Women can be infertile for all sorts of reasons. While just because men hang onto their sperm for longer with a mixture of good and bad sperm, and a few can still get a woman pregnant naturally even with some bad sperm, and nature can allow for older men to pass on birth defects, this does not mean that nature makes it alright for older men to have children.

    There is a lot to consider beyond biology as to whether or not a couple should decide to have a kid, at any age. When we start protesting that older men are bringing children into the world with an increased amount of birth defects, only then do I think we should be in an uproar about older women wanting an equal opportunity. Where is the cover of an old man about to be a father?