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Exploring the older mother from different perspectives: the voices of women (an exploratory study of women's views and experiences of delayed childbearing)
  1. AG Cooke1,2,
  2. TA Mills1,
  3. T Lavender1
  1. 1The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  2. 2Central Manchester University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK


Background Maternal age at first birth in the UK has steadily risen over the past two decades. Evidence regarding obstetric risks of delayed childbearing is methodologically limited. There is little qualitative research regarding what women know about these risks, their experiences or reasons for delaying childbearing.

Objectives To explore what factors influence women's decisions to delay childbearing, their experiences and perceptions of the associated risks.

Design A phenomenological study exploring the ‘lived experience’ of delayed childbearing.

A purposive sample of 30 women (five groups of six) were interviewed following ethical approval:

  1. 35 and over, no children, not pregnant

  2. 35 and over, pregnant with their first child

  3. 35 and over, no children, attending fertility clinic

  4. 18 to 25, not pregnant, no children

  5. 26 to 34, not pregnant, no children

The sample considers views of women at various stages of their ‘life plan’. Thematic analysis was conducted.

Results Women's accounts did not focus on obstetric complications but on the need for a stable relationship, ‘being ready’ and life experience. Disadvantages focus on the physical effects on the body and societal perceptions. Women perceive a lack of choice in their decision of when to have a family; personal circumstances force decisions to delay. Age alone was not perceived to be a risk factor.

Conclusion Health professionals need to understand the complexities surrounding women's reasons for delaying childbearing. Sensitive information and support should be provided allowing for varying perceptions of risk status. Women may benefit from preconception care.

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