First-Time Motherhood Is Depressing At Any Age

Illustration for article titled First-Time Motherhood Is Depressing At Any Age

Great news, ball busting career women with no time to trifle with babies until you're at least in the C-suite: having your first child later in life is no more likely to lead to depression than having a child early in life. But boarding the motherhood train just a few minutes before it leaves the station may still may lead to complications that might themselves lead to depression.

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Reuters reports that a newly published study by Australian researchers followed more than 500 first-time mothers, about half who had conceived naturally and half who became pregnant using fertility treatments. The women were surveyed during their first trimester and given diagnostic tests for depression within the first four months after giving birth. They found that, contrary to a persistent cultural belief, women who give birth to their first child when they're over the age of 37 are no more likely to become depressed in the first four months after childbirth than women who have their first baby at a younger age. About 8% of both groups exhibited symptoms of postpartum depression.

In an email to Reuters, researcher Catherine A. McMahon explained,

Older mothers are frequently discussed in the media. There are a lot of myths, and limited empirical data. There's been some speculation, for instance, that older mothers might have a tougher time adjusting to motherhood — after, presumably, being in the workforce for a long time. Or they might be more "set in their ways" than younger women, and have more difficulty dealing with the lifestyle changes that a baby brings.

McMahon's research doesn't back this stereotype.

Other research has found that pregnancy later in life can lead to pregnancy complications, and that a high-risk, high-complication pregnancy can lead to postpartum depression. Being pregnant while older can also lead to extremely powerful judgment rays being fired at you from all sides, especially if you're unmarried.

This study only examined depression in older women who were able to successfully conceive and give birth. Researchers suggested more study of the mental health of older would-be mothers who aren't able to conceive is necessary. Hypothesis: not being able to conceive when you want to is probably depressing, sad. What do I win, science?

Older first-time moms not at higher depression risk [Reuters]

DISCUSSION

emilyemcmahon
eejm

"There's been some speculation, for instance, that older mothers might have a tougher time adjusting to motherhood — after, presumably, being in the workforce for a long time. Or they might be more 'set in their ways' than younger women, and have more difficulty dealing with the lifestyle changes that a baby brings."

Also known as the "you'd BETTER have babies as soon and as often as possible before you get all selfish and involved in your own life and then don't want babies which makes you a HORRIBLE person and utterly unfeminine because it's totally your job to devote every ounce of strength you have to creating a perfect heterosexual marriage and children" myth. Or something like that.

Ugh. These long-held, finger-wagging, blanket accusations about women and their personal lives make me crabby. I'm glad that at least some research is showing that later in life motherhood isn't always the horror story painted by popular culture.