08 May 2009
Even as gynaecologists maintain that the 25–to–30 period is the “Golden Era” for childbearing, urban women who are taking long strides in their careers are pushing pregnancy further and further away. The boom in medical technology and infertility treatments have put worries about that infamous, ever–ticking biological–clock on the back–burner.
Laxmi Lingam, who chairs the centre for women studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences points out that women are often forced to choose between the career clock and the biological clock, and changing motherhood trends are merely a reflection of that. “Whether the mother is young or old, babies always get what they want – a good mother,” she says, adding that maternal instincts overrule age concerns in bringing up a child.
Health apart, when it comes to developing a relationship with the child, who wins: the young mother or the older, more mature and financially stable mum? Social scientists say that the very concept of ageing has changed over the years, and it isn’t unusual for motherhood trends to alter accordingly. Women today are living longer; the 60s are indeed the new 40s.
Psychiatrist Shamshah Sonawala from Jaslok Hospital feels that both younger and older mothers have their own benefits and pitfalls.
“There are many advantages in having children later in one’s life. Often, an older woman has done all that she wants to do with regard to her career, spending time with her spouse, developing her own interests, etc, and she is mentally prepared to take on the greater challenges and responsibilities of motherhood. Since she’s not caught up with her own growing up, she is better suited to understand her child’s changing needs,” explains Dr Sonawala.
Though, Sonawala adds that motherhood is far more challenging today, and mums have to be geared to handle multiple tasks. Stamina may be a concern for an older mum, but women are also looking after themselves better, she says. Experts agree that younger mums come with their own brand of vibrant energy that is indisputable. Then, of course, there’s the pleasure of watching your children grow up and build their own families.
From the health perspective, gynaecologists are categorical about the ‘Right’ age. “Ideally, 25 to 35 is the time for childbearing as the woman is best–suited, both mentally and physically to have children,” says gynaecologist Duru Shah who practises at Kemps Corner, Mumbai.
Shah explains that women below the ages of 25 aren’t fully developed to give birth, putting both mother and child at a higher risk.
Older pregnancies, too, come with their own share of risks, as the fertility potential of women reduces significantly beyond 30 years, with the risk of abnormalities among children increasing, say gynaecologists. A study conducted by Bangalore’s Institute for Social and Economic Change in 2007, in fact, worryingly pointed out that 3.1 per cent of women in the 30 to 34 age bracket were attaining menopause, with statistics rising to eight per cent in the 35 to 39 age group.
But some like Powai resident Brenda Periera who delivered a bonny boy at Hiranandani Hospital at the age of 42 believe “things go fine, if God wills it ”. A manager at a leading pharma firm, Brenda was caught up with her career and second marriage, but was overjoyed when she became pregnant. “I was advised bed rest for most of my pregnancy, and had to constantly take pills as my blood pressure had shot up. I prayed day and night for a healthy child, and it worked,” says Periera, cradling her fourmonth–old son.
“As a woman crosses 35, the risk of disorders such as diabetes and blood pressure increases. The eggs also get older,” warns gynaecologist Anita Soni. And though advances in assisted reproduction make late pregnancies a viable option, she still advises against “Missing the Bus ”.
Gynaecologists say older women are at the risk of tears as well as bladder and bowel injuries during childbirth.
A senior gynaecologist, however, says his years of experience had taught him that correctly–timed motherhood wasn’t just about biology alone. “Between 25 and 30, a mother and child grow together.” Once the child is a teenager, the mother is young enough to get on with her life.
When it comes to young mothers–versus–older mothers debate, it looks like the jury is still out on that one.