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10 Nov 2017

We’re having babies later than ever

New research shows that Irish women are putting off motherhood for longer than ever, with 65% of babies now born to mums aged between 30 and 39.

The New Central Statistics Office data reveals that on average mothers are giving birth to their first child at nearly 31, five years older than three decades ago. Since 1996 the number of first time mothers aged between 30 and 39 has risen by 51%.

The trend is part of demographic changes across Europe, where many countries have seen a dramatic drop in fertility rates. Ireland’s fertility rate stands at 1.9 births per woman, down from 3.2 in 1980. While 1.9 is high for Europe, it falls below the 2.1 needed for the population to replace itself.

Interestingly, the leaders of Europe’s biggest economies, and all the European members of the G7, are childless. Here are some of them:

• Germany’s Angela Merkel
• France’s Emmanuel Macron
• Britain’s Theresa May
• Italy’s Paolo Gentilon
• Holland’s Mark Rutte
• Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon
• Sweden’s Stefan Lofven
• Luxembourg’s Xavier Bettel
• Switzerland’s Simonetta Sommaruga
• Ireland’s Leo Varadkar

So why are we waiting longer to have children, or not having them at all? Perhaps it’s a change in the way we see ourselves. Catholicism is much less influential than it was even a few short decades ago, and living for oneself has become increasingly socially acceptable.

There might be financial reasons too: compared to the 1980s we are spending nearly three times as much of our income on rent or mortgage payments, while wage rises haven’t kept up. So it makes sense to put off kids until we feel more financially secure.

In the meantime, perhaps people are feeling more comfortable about spending their disposable income on taking care of themselves. And why not? If there has been something bothering you about your teeth or other aspects of your health, the simple answer is to get it looked at as soon as possible.

If you are an adult with disposable income and no dependents, remember, it probably won’t be this straightforward forever. The thing about health is it always pays to address problems sooner rather than later. That’s particularly true with oral health, where there should be no need for complex and expensive treatments with preventative care, based on regular check-ups and hygiene sessions.

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