Advanced maternal age: Delayed childbearing is rarely a conscious choice: A qualitative study of women's views and experiences

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    Background: There is a global trend, in high resource countries, for delayed childbearing beyond the age of 35. Women of advanced maternal age are considered to be at higher risk of poor maternal and neonatal outcomes. Women's views and experiences of delayed childbearing are relatively unexplored. Objectives: To gain an understanding of factors influencing women's decisions to delay childbearing and explore their experiences and perceptions of associated risks. Design: A qualitative phenomenological study. Setting: Greater Manchester, United Kingdom. Participants: Purposive sample of 18 women aged 35 and over in three groups; six women with no children who were not pregnant, six women pregnant with their first child and six women with no children attending a fertility clinic. Methods: Data were collected by in depth semi-structured interviews, managed manually and subjected to thematic analysis. Results: Three main themes were identified; the chapters of life, the need to know, and childbearing being within or beyond women's control. Women focussed on the need for a stable relationship, being "ready" to have a baby, and acquisition of life experience. Their experiences reflected a lack of awareness of many of the risks associated with pregnancy over age 35 and disbelief that age alone necessarily increased the likelihood of poor outcomes. Women perceived a lack of choice in the timing of when to start a family. Women suggested that although they may have reached a juncture in their lives, at which they felt ready to have a baby, the circumstances in which they found themselves may not support this; factors such as relationship, financial stability, health and fertility, were often outside of their control. Conclusions: Women do not perceive that they have ultimate control when it comes to the timing of childbearing. Health professionals and the media should be aware of the complex interplay of factors 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 pre-conception education. © 2011.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)30-39
    Number of pages9
    JournalInternational Journal of Nursing Studies
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2012


    • Advanced maternal age
    • Delayed childbearing
    • Phenomenology
    • Qualitative


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