Women who delay child bearing and give birth between the ages of 34 and 40 make better mothers, according to a study.
The findings, which appear in a book by Professor Elizabeth Gregory, reveal that late moms are more likely than younger counterparts to be financially secure, and in stable relationships. They are also happier to put their jobs on hold because they have already achieved many career goals.
According to Prof Gregory, older mothers also tend to enjoy better health and live longer. The average age of British women giving birth is stable at 29, but the numbers of women choosing to start families in their late thirties and early forties has risen sharply. In 2006 in England and Wales, more than 22,000 women over 40 had babies, of whom nearly 5,500 were giving birth for the first time.
And ten times as many women have their first child between 35 and 39 nowadays than in 1975, with 13 times as many between 40 and 44. Prof Gregory's new book will be welcome news for the likes of Jennifer Lopez, 38, and Halle Berry, 41, who just are the latest to join the growing club of older first-time mothers.
"I have found an overwhelming number and range of reasons why what I call the 'new later mothers' are absolutely right to delay motherhood. For one thing, they have a stronger family focus rather than trying to juggle priorities because they have achieved many of their personal and career goals," the Daily Mail quoted Prof Gregory, who is director of women's studies at the University of Houston in Texas, as saying.
"They also have more financial power because new later mothers have established careers and higher salaries," she added. In addition, said Gregory, these mothers have an unusually high marriage rate. Almost 85 per cent are married.
John Mirowsky, author of the study and a member of the National Institute of Health's scientific review panel on human development and ageing, believes the prime age for childbearing, in terms of maternal health and longevity, lies between 34 and 40.
"While younger women are more fertile and biologically fit, older mothers tend to be more mature and less likely to engage in risky behaviour, and they are more settled educationally, financially and emotionally," Mirowsky said.