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Is giving birth in your 40s the new normal in Singapore?

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More Singaporean women are giving birth in their 40s. Is this a healthy trend? What are the risks of having children so late in life?

She gets out of college, in her 20s, with stars in her eyes; her dreams, aspirations and that high flying job beckoning her. She works long hours in a bid to make her mark in today's fast paced world.

Got to get that masters degree first. And aim for that promotion. And save up for a house. Then, Mr. Right comes along and they marry. Babies? Don't want any now. What's the hurry? Will travel the world a bit before they come along. Need more time to settle into that new job. Cannot give up on that dream career.

Is she 37 already? That's strange, the last time she checked, she was 27.

Still not too late to have a baby right? Wrong.

Fertility drops to 15% in mid-thirties

According to a report on AsiaOne, about 45 % of women in Singapore believed that it was fairly easy for a couple in their mid 30s to conceive naturally; they thought they had a 50% chance!

However, in reality, the possibility of such a conception is just 15 %.

The truth is that in today's Singapore, for most highly educated women, motherhood doesn’t start until the 30s. This, in spite of the fact that most Singaporean women are aware that their natural fertility declines with age.

The obvious reasons for not having babies early are not finding the right partner, career issues and income, and even not having enough money to buy a house!

Another reason might be that most couples today are over confident that, with advances in science and technology, they would still be able to conceive, through in vitro fertilisation (IVF) or through frozen or donor eggs.

More Singaporeans giving birth in their 40s!

Interestingly, the number of Singaporean women conceiving in their 40s has doubled over the past thirty years!

In contrast, the number of women having babies between the ages of 25 and 29 - considered the right age for motherhood - has halved in the same time frame. Is this a healthy trend? What are the implications?

Risks of late pregnancies

  • A woman in her 40s has an approximately one-in-six chance of conceiving naturally with every cycle. If and when she gets pregnant, she also faces a higher risk of miscarriage and still birth. Older mothers also have a higher chance of giving birth prematurely.
  • Women below the age of 35 have a 60-70 % chance of becoming pregnant through IVF. Those above 40 have only a 20-25 % chance.
  • Risk of complications during pregnancy increase as women get older. These include gestational diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
  • A 40-year-old mum's risk of having a Down's syndrome baby is apparently 10 times higher than if she were under the age of 30.
  • Delaying motherhood means that there's a huge age gap between the mother and child. These mums will be close to retirement age by the time their child gets out of school. With the estimated cost of raising a child in Singapore approximated to be around $400,000, saving up for a child's education, and preparing for retirement are financial concerns that would need to be addressed.
  • Older mothers may not have as much energy to raise a child. Their remaining lifespan is another concern.

Minimising risks involved in late pregnancies

According to AsiaOne, Dr Tan Eng Loy, a consultant at the department of obstetrics and gynaecology at Singapore General Hospital advises these tips for older women wanting to have babies:

WHEN TRYING FOR A BABY

Consult your your doctor to ensure that any existing medical issues like diabetes, hypertension or heart conditions, are in control. These may complicate your pregnancy.

The doctor will advise you on whether you would have to adjust your medication so that it does not affect your chances of conceiving, or harm your unborn baby's health.

WHEN PREGNANT

As soon as your home pregnancy test shows positive, get your doctor's appointment. Make sure that you get yourself screened for all the required tests, like those for Down syndrome and gestational diabetes. Get regular and detailed ultrasound scans.

WHEN YOU ARE IN YOUR FINAL TRIMESTER

Get your doctor's advice on whether labour should be induced at around 39 weeks, that is, close to the delivery date. This is to prevent the possibility of still birth.

Also READ: Is it a good idea to get pregnant after 40

(Source: AsiaOne, The Straits Times, AsiaOne)

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