Saturday 17 March 2018

Rachel Mackey: Women must heed the age factor or risk childlessness

As more Irish women put off having a baby, Rachel Mackey asks if they are leaving it too late to plan a family

Rachel Mackey

IS THERE ever a perfect time to have a baby? It seems that, increasingly, many Irish women and their partners are putting their lives on hold, at least when it comes to this big decision: "Let's wait until the economy improves. Let's wait until we can afford a house or a bigger place. Let's wait until I am made permanent, or made manager, or until we know whether or not we are staying in Ireland." There is such an array of considerations facing couples, many of them influenced by our current economic context.

So, is there a right time to have a baby? Well, fertility research indicates that the ideal age for a woman to have a child is in her early 20s. In Ireland now, the average age at which a woman has her first child is 31. Twenty years ago it was 26. So, why are we having babies at an older age, and should we change how we plan our families?

There are several reasons for the trend of Irish women starting families at an older age. The economic climate in Ireland certainly means that women, and couples, have had to think long and hard about when to start a family. A woman who might have once thought of leaving the workforce to have a child might have to think twice about the financial consequences. Couples may need two full-time incomes to service their mortgage and other expenses.

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