Forty-Something British Women Matching Teen Pregnancy Rates

In England, women over 40 have as many unplanned pregnancies as their 16 year-old counterparts.

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By Bonnie Erbe, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

About 20 years ago I remember a friend coming up with a fabulous line: "You know you're getting old when your friends are having trouble getting pregnant." So true! Then along came what was to become the multi-billion dollar in vitro fertilization industry, which turned that line (and human reproductive biology) upside down. The only women who are too old now to carry to term are those in their 70s. And some day someone will come along and break that age barrier, we can all be sure.

The problem is, according to a new British report, the in vitro industry may have done too good a job at publicizing the inability of some, particularly older women, to become pregnant. Many British women (and one can assume something similar is happening here in the United States) believe they are too old to conceive and so they stop using birth control too young. Turns out they do so at their own peril. Women over 40 in England and Wales have similar rates of unplanned pregnancies and abortions as they under-16-year-old counterparts. According to the report:

Data for England and Wales from the Office for National Statistics shows abortion rates in the 40-44 age group are four per 1,000 women--the same as for girls under 16. The Family Planning Association (FPA) said warnings about declining infertility and age may have gone "too far" and could be encouraging older women to abandon contraception. Fertility among those over 40 has more than doubled since 1988, from 5.1 to 12.6 per 1,000 women. There were 26,000 live births in this age group in 2008.

So the 2010 version of my friend's great line might be, "You know you're getting old when you're close to traditional retirement age, and not before!"