Older Mothers Has Meant Babies Born Into Overall Better Secular Times

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Kieron Barclay PhD Department of Social Policy London School of Economics

Dr. Barclay

Dr. Kieron Barclay PhD
Department of Social Policy
London School of Economics

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Barclay: Mean age at childbearing has been increasing in most countries in the OECD since the early 1970s. A wealth of research has shown that childbearing at advanced ages is associated with greater difficulty in terms of getting pregnant, higher rates of miscarriage, stillbirth, and increased risk of poor peri-natal outcomes such as pre-term birth and low birth weight. Studies also indicate that the offspring of older mothers have a greater risk of Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and mortality in adulthood. However, from the perspective of any individual woman, delaying childbearing to an older age necessarily also means that she will give birth in a later birth year. The last 40 to 50 years have seen substantial improvements in educational opportunities, and better public health conditions and medical knowledge. As a result, these positive secular trends may outweigh or counterbalance the negative effects of reproductive aging for the child.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Barclay: Our study shows that the net effect of maternal age on long-term outcomes such as high school GPA, height, physical fitness in early adulthood, and educational attainment is negligible. When we take account of the fact that, from the perspective of an individual woman, childbearing at older ages means giving birth into a later birth year, we find that when women have children at older ages those children are taller and do better in the educational system. However, we still do not recommend women to delay childbearing to old reproductive ages because there is still a greater chance that they will not be able to fulfill their goals in terms of having children.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Barclay: Future research might examine whether our findings would also apply to outcomes measured much earlier in life, for example in relation to peri-natal outcomes such as the risk of low birth weight and pre-term birth.


Barclay, K. and Myrskylä, M. (2016), Advanced Maternal Age and Offspring Outcomes: Reproductive Aging and Counterbalancing Period Trends. Population and Development Review, 42: 69–94. doi: 10.1111/j.1728-4457.2016.00105.x

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Last Updated on April 15, 2016 by Marie Benz MD FAAD