Danish actress and model Brigitte Nielson, perhaps best-known for starring in Rocky IV alongside former husband Sylvester Stallone, gave birth last week at the age of 54.
Actress Rachel Weisz, 48, announced in April that she was expecting her first baby with James Bond, aka husband Daniel Craig. Singer Janet Jackson was 50 when she had her son last year.
Figures published in the United States this year show that while birth rates are falling in almost every age group, more women than ever in their 40s are having children.
Whether it’s because you want to establish your career first or haven’t yet met ‘the one’, here’s what you need to think about if you’re consciously planning to be an older mum:
1Security and stability
By the time a woman approaches 40, she’s more likely to have a settled lifestyle. She’s probably established herself in her chosen career and is better able to provide for her child financially, both throughout the early years and through college or university.
A strong sense of identity and self-worth is important and something that comes with time, so as an older mother you’re likely to be a good role model.
If you’re on your own or haven’t found a long-term partner until later in life, you’ll also be able to teach your child the importance of self-reliance and independence.
You’ll have more life experience than younger mums, and this will help you cope with motherhood and enable you to guide your child wisely over the years.
If a woman is 45 when she gives birth, she’ll be in her mid-to-late 60s by the time her child is grown and preparing to make his or her own way in the world.
While that’s not considered old these days, it may mean you have your own age-related health issues to deal with.
You’re also more likely to be at a different stage in your life than the parents of other children the same age as your own.
Think about your support network, too. Grandparents, those traditional bastions of parental backup, may be too fragile to help out or possibly no longer around.
None of these issues is insurmountable, but you may need to make a more deliberate effort to connect with others and ensure friends and family are a supportive part of your child’s life.
3The generation gap
No parent wants to feel they are a burden, but your son or daughter might feel responsible for looking after you as you age.
It’s important to think about how you will address this when the time comes. They need to know they are free to live their own lives, and not expected to take on the mantle of a carer.
The age gap itself may pose challenges as you try to understand popular culture and keep up to date with your child’s interests; assuming you want a close relationship, be aware this is another area that will require effort on your part.
4The health risks
There’s no sugar-coating it – the physical risks of giving birth are greater once a woman is past the age of 35.
Miscarriage is more common, as well as pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and pre-eclampsia, a condition characterised by high blood pressure.
Older mothers are more likely to need a C-section as the uterus is less able to cope with vaginal delivery.
Babies born to older mothers are also more likely to develop chromosomal-related conditions such as Down’s Syndrome, while if pregnancy is the result of fertility treatment there’s an increased chance of bearing twins – or even triplets.
With more women choosing to delay motherhood, fertility experts say one option is for women to freeze their eggs while young for future use.
While there is no guarantee of success, the frozen eggs of a woman aged under 35 have a greater than 50% chance of ending in a live birth, while those of a woman over 40 have less than a 9% chance.
Pregnancy can throw up all kinds of complications, whatever age you are. Parenting is never easy and trouble-free, either. So who’s to say you’ll have a tougher time of it at 42 than your 25-year-old neighbour?
The bottom line is knowing what you’re signing up for – being aware of the benefits as well as the risks. It’s not a case of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – it’s about being informed and as prepared as you can be.
Ultimately, that’s all any of us can do – no matter what age we are.