Dating past forty

Ellen Arnison had two sons aged seven and five, and thought her family was complete.

But shortly after her 40th birthday, Arnison, from Renfrewshire, changed her mind.

Being labelled an “elderly primigravida” in my birth notes only made me laugh. The tipping point came in 2002, when US academic Sylvia Ann Hewlett published Baby Hunger, containing the unnerving statistic (that was misleading, since it only covered a tiny sample) that 42 per cent of career women had no children at the age of 40, and most deeply regretted it.

I frequently meet women in their mid-thirties who fret about their fertility.

For women who don’t want to fall pregnant, the message is simple: use contraception until you have passed your menopause.” Cherie Blair was astonished to discover, at 45, that he was carrying her fourth child. “This has been the biggest surprise of my life, to tell you the truth. ’ He told me I was talking nonsense and that he had women of 46 on his books – and he’s right.

I thought I was kind of past the point where this could be a reality for me.” TV and radio presenter Gaby Roslin was similarly stunned, aged 41, to learn she was having a second child. He said it’s not an age thing, it’s down to how healthy you are.” Before the introduction of reliable contraception, older mothers were common, with women giving birth to their last child when they were grandmothers.

In the Twenties, the average age a woman had her last child was 42.

Today, forty-something mothers are more likely to be first-timers, and their numbers are rising once again.

“A couple of months after I married for the second time, my dad died.

That led to a carpe diem conversation, when my husband and I decided we’d try for another baby,” she says.

The average age to buy a first property is now 35, the age when women’s fertility supposedly “goes over a cliff”.

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