News of Sonia Kruger’s pregnancy at 49 has given women hopeful of a later-in-life pregnancy new hope. But Kruger is one of the lucky ones.
Many older mums experience heartbreaking failure to become pregnant despite an increasing range of fertility options for mums aged 45 and older.
Kruger, who is 16 weeks pregnant, conceived with partner Craig McPherson through IVF. It is not the TV personality’s first attempt at IVF – an earlier attempt four years ago failed.
Of all Australian births in 2011, 630 or 0.2 per cent were to women aged 45 and older, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare statistics show.
Yet that figure is set to rise thanks to IVF options for older women including egg donation.
The fastest growing group of women undergoing IVF is those aged 40 and older – up from 14.3 per cent in 2002 to 25.3 per cent in 2011, a report by the University of New South Wales found.
Victoria University’s Professor Mary Carolan-Olah has researched high-risk pregnancies, particularly in women aged 45 and older, for nearly 10 years.
Although these women and their babies face higher maternal risks than younger women, Professor Carolan-Olah says many experience problem-free pregnancies and births.
“Although the risks of complications like raised blood pressure and stillbirth increase as a woman gets older, the absolute risk still remains very small,” she says.
“In other words, the majority of healthy women have few complications, and this is particularly the case for women who conceive naturally.”
Women aged 45 and older face increased rates of stillbirth, perinatal death and preterm birth and low birth weight, a research paper by Professor Carolan published in the Midwifery journal in 2012 found.
Gestational diabetes, gestational hypertension, pre-eclampsia and caesarian deliveries are also more common in this age group.
The advantages for mums over 45
Despite these risks, stillbirth occurs in less than 10 in 1000 births to mums aged 45 and older. What’s more, researchers say older mums have many positive parental advantages over their younger counterparts.
“There is a growing body of research that suggests that the children of older mothers are socially and psychologically advantaged, as older parents are likely to be more tolerant and to invest a lot of time and effort into child raising,” Professor Carolan-Olah says.
Mums in their forties are at least 10 years older than the average Australian mums. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures show the average age of mums in 2011 was 30 years compared with 29.4 years in 2002.
High-profile 40+ parents
As the trend toward delayed motherhood continues, more high-profile women have celebrated post-40 pregnancies.
ABC presenter Virginia Trioli was 47 when she gave birth to her son in 2012, fashion designer Colette Dinnigan was the same age when she had her second child and last year fitness personality Lisa Curry revealed she was using IVF to try for a fourth child.
Melbourne mum and author of On the Shoulders of Giants Rhondalynn Korolak says at 46 she was determined to have her miracle baby. With the help of a friend who donated her eggs, Ms Korolak became pregnant with twins.
Sadly, she lost one baby at eight weeks gestation. Doctors had warned her about the high miscarriage rate in her age group.
“I worried throughout my pregnancy,” Ms Korolak says.
“Even though I know it is not productive to worry, it is difficult not to for older mums as the miscarriage rate is more than 80 per cent for any woman over 44.”
She gave birth to daughter Eden last year and says it has changed her life.
“She’s a miracle and she has brought enormous joy, love and wonderment back to my life,” Ms Korolak says.