Older mothers blamed for the rise in low birth-weight babies

// 25 March 2007

A recent report by the Fabian Society, ‘Born Unequal,’ claims that career women who delay having children until they are older and better established professionally are responsible for the rise in low birth-weight babies, according to an article in The Observer today.

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The investigation found that babies born weighing less that 5lb 7oz are more likely to develop health problems such as diabetes, have a low IQ and display behavioural problems.

As the polar opposite to the older mother, teenage mums are known to be more likely to have low birth-weight babies, owing to a poor diet and lack of nutrition, and smoking, but women in the 40+ age bracket are now emerging as another high-risk facet of the female population.

The report will be launched this week by health minister Caroline Flint and treasury minister Ed Balls, and will involve the introduction of more family-friendly policies to encourage women to procreate at a younger age.

So, we are either having our babies too old or too young, apparently, but what does the reporting of these findings really suggest? In order for society to grow and regenerate we need to reproduce, and no matter how we advance technologically women will always have the role of gestating and nurturing our future. Fact. Without us humanity could not continue to thrive, and so I do not want to devalue the role of the mother by saying that we all value our careers over motherhood since some of us aspire to the latter, and others strive for both. It’s all a matter of choice.

But what this reporting does not appreciate is that when we do have children it is, and can be, part of our personal preference for a specific life path. Instead it rather dictates the terms to us by which we should plan motherhood, although a large proportion of pregnancies can occur unexpectedly, even though the baby is loved as much as if it was part of some grand scheme. That’s just the unpredictability of life, and not something that is stringently regimented.

Women of childbearing age, which can be anything from mid-twenties to mid-forties, are already subject to discrimination by employers who are reluctant to hire us and put us forward for promotion owing to concerns we may not fulfil our professional obligations and leave unexpectedly, on full-pay, to raise a family of girls who will grow up and, as perceived, also shit on their employer, therefore perpetuating the cycle.

With bureaucracy working against us it is not surprising that for many of us having children may not be a priority, or indeed something we want to do ever? And with this report adding to the ‘when is the right time’ debate, which implies that there is a small window of time from the end of the teenage years to the mid-thirties to have children ‘properly,’ it’s no wonder we are no longer interested in what the fat cats and the media have to say.

Photo by kellyandapril, shared under a Creative Commons License

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