We generally think that after women go through menopause, around age 50, their child-bearing years are behind them, and any new children in their lives will be grandchildren. A pregnant woman over 50 is a rare sight.
But data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention show that, while not widespread, births to women 50 and older do happen — more now than ever before.
A total of 677 US women over the age of 50 gave birth in 2013, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics Report.
That’s an increase from 2012, when 600 women over 50 gave birth. It’s also a dramatic increase from 1997, when there were just 144 such births. Since then, the number of women over 50 giving birth has generally risen each year, the report says.
About a third of the women over 50 who gave birth in 2013 were having their first child. Over half were having their first or second child.
For some perspective, births to women over 50 amounted to 0.02% of total births in 2013. There were more than ten times as many births among women 45-49 than women 50-54.
The age group with the most births was women age 25-29, with 1,120,777 births. For women past age 35, the number of births drops quickly. Births to women age 35-39 were less than half those for women age 30-34.
Though the majority of births are still to women under 35, birth rates for older women have increased in the past 20 years. The CDC report says that increase has been linked to the use of fertility treatments and therapies, which can mean anything from talking to a doctor to in-vitro fertilization. The report doesn’t say what percentage of women over 50 who gave birth used fertility treatments.
Births to women over age 50 remain highly uncommon, but are becoming a bit less rare. They show that while our assumptions about when it’s no longer possible for women to become mothers are often right, as fertility treatments become more popular and more advanced, there will increasingly be exceptions to the rule.