Until the late 1980s, the majority of women had their first child in their early or mid – 20s. Today, more and more women are delaying childbearing because of educational or career goals. Over the last few years, it has become common for women to delay having children until they are 35 or older (Tough et el., 2002). In the United States, from 1970 to 1990 the proportion of first births increased 100% among women 30 to 39 years old and 50% among women who were 40 to 44 years old (Bianco et al., 1996). In 2000, 13% of all U. S. births were to women 35 and older (J. A. Martin et al., 2001).

Delayed pregnancy does carry some risks, which include an increase in spontaneous abortion, first-trimester bleeding, low birth weight, increased labor time and rate of ce­sarean (si-ZAIR-ee-un) section (c-section), and chromosomal abnormalities (Tough et al., 2002). The likelihood of a chromosomal abnormality increases each year in women over 30 and in men over 55. Remember that a woman is born with a set number of fol­licles that will develop into ova. As she ages, so do her follicles. There is also a sharp de­cline in the ability to get pregnant after the age of 40 (Feinman, 1997). On any day of her menstrual cycle, the probability that a woman who is younger than 27 years old will get pregnant is twice as high as it is for a woman who is over the age of 35 (Dunson et al., 2002).

Because of this, women over 40 have a higher chance of achieving pregnancy from ovum donation than they do using their own aged ova (Lim & Tsakok, 1997). Even so, the use of assisted reproductive technologies by older women has raised some interesting questions. In the mid-1990s, Arceli Keh, who had been married for 16 years and had no children, lied about her age at an infertility clinic in order to be considered for embryo transplants. She claimed she was 50 years old when she entered the program. Because of her age, she underwent an extensive medical workup before entering the oocyte dona­tion program. All medical tests supported the fact that her chronological age was 50 years old. Although the first embryo transfer resulted in a miscarriage at 8 weeks, the next transfer resulted in a pregnancy. During her first obstetric visit at 13 weeks, she in­formed her physician that she was really 10 years older than the age she had given pre­viously. Soon it was revealed that her true age was 63 years at the time of the embryo transplant. She underwent a cesarean section at 38 weeks and delivered a healthy 6 pound, 4 ounce baby girl. The media provided extensive coverage, and many people questioned both the woman’s and the clinic’s ethics.

Older men are also becoming fathers, but with much less media coverage. Tony Randall became a first-time father in 1997 at the age of 77, but it did not result in the public debate that Arceli Keh’s case did. Oftentimes, late fatherhood is seen as a sign of masculinity for a man, but late motherhood is viewed with more skepticism and con­demnation. Why do you think this might be?