Birth Rates Rise Among Women Over 40, CDC Finds

Marilyn Nolen, 65, is one of a growing number who have become mothers post-40.

ByABC News
April 6, 2010, 11:28 AM

Apr. 7, 2010— -- For Marilyn Nolen, parenting came a little later in life than she expected. With the help of assisted reproductive therapy (ART) and donor eggs, she finally became the proud mother of twin boys -- when she was 55 years old.

Now 65 and raising her two rambunctious ten-year-olds in Killeen, Tex., Nolen is one of a growing number of women in the U.S. who have entered motherhood post-40.

While birth rates in 2008 dropped among women in their teens, twenties, and thirties, the 40-to-44 age bracket saw a 4 percent increase in birth rate, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Birth rates increased for mothers over 45 as well, with the number of births among these women increasing by 4 percent in the past year. What's more, women over 40 were also more likely to be first-time mothers than in past years, the report found.

"This increase is part of a general trend that we've seen over the past few decades," says Brady Hamilton, lead author on the study and researcher for the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. "A rise in reproductive technology gives women more options and more women are choosing to postpone childbirth or have a second or third child later in life," he says.

This doesn't mean it's easy to conceive in mid-life, however, warns Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, author of "The Working Woman Pregnancy Book" and director of general obstetrics and gynecology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center.

"Statistics like this encourage putting off pregnancy even more. It gives women the illusion that the biological clock doesn't really start ticking until later," she says, "but most births over 45 are from egg donors. The chance of getting pregnant without assisted reproductive therapy after age 40 is only 10 percent," she says.

Because of her age, Nolen wasn't able to use her own eggs. After nearly a decade of failed attempts with other fertility treatment, using in vitro fertilization with a donor egg and her husband's sperm was the only treatment that was finally successful.