Sunday 11 December 2016

'Schoolgirls should be urged to start family in their 20s'

Gabrielle Monaghan and Geraldine Gittens

Published 16/06/2015 | 02:30

Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe believes women should consider starting their families earlier to avoid potential health complications or risk struggling to get pregnant
Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe believes women should consider starting their families earlier to avoid potential health complications or risk struggling to get pregnant

SCHOOLGIRLS should be taught about the advantages of having children in their 20s rather than waiting until later in life, a leading obstetrician has said.

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Professor Fionnuala McAuliffe, head of obstetrics and gynaecology at UCD's medical school, said women should consider starting their families before turning 30 to avoid potential health complications or risk struggling to get pregnant.

"We need to get the message out there that, biologically, women do much better when they have their children in their 20s instead of their 30s," she told the Irish Independent.

Ireland is now home to the oldest mothers in Europe, with the average woman giving birth for the first time at 30.3 years old. Prof McAuliffe said that schools would be the "ideal place" to raise awareness around the risks of giving birth at an older age.

She said that, in terms of fertility, the orange light goes on at 35 and the red light goes on at 40. "The older the mother is, the more likely she is to have complications," she said.

“I’m struck by meeting couples who are very surprised when they’re having difficulties in their late 30s and early 40s. Fertility dramatically falls towards the end of the 30s,” Prof McAuliffe told Newstalk's Breakfast.

“We see lots of couples who have left having a family until their mid to late thirties and maybe they have difficulties having a baby or having the size of family that they would have liked.”

“The pregnancy outcome will be better, women will be less likely to have problems with growth and diabetes and so on.”

Up to 15pc of couples will need help in the form of IVF at some stage, Prof McAuliffe said, so it is quite common.

"For a lot of families they just can’t afford [IVF]. Some people might be faced with needing IVF but they're not in a situation where they can afford it," she said.

Irish Independent

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