We speak to Claudia Spahr, a Swiss English Journalist about her book Right Time Baby which is aimed at older mums.
There is very seldom a week that goes by without a story about the risks being run by “career women” who are leaving it too late to have a family. One older mum has had enough of all the gloom and doom and wants to both promote the positives of starting a family later in life and provide a guide to everything an older mother needs to know.
Claudia Spahr is a Swiss English journalist and author of Right Time Baby. She had her first child when she was 39 and says she was keen at the time to find a book aimed at older mums. “There were very few and those there were were out of date and tended to repeat negative stereotypes about all the problems associated with later pregnancy,” she says. “I wanted to do some research into it and I interviewed a lot of experts who had new things to say, for instance, about the role of nutrition in improving fertility.”
She adds: “I wanted to write a positive book full of tips. There is a lot of emphasis on the risks in later pregnancy rather than on celebrating a wonderful time.” She says her research shows that if the pregnant woman is happy and not fearful, it is better for the foetus. Moreover, she describes in detail the kind of things women can do to minimise any risks of complications, such as not drinking or smoking and ensuring they are not under too much stress.
She says the information she gives is very much based on health research, but it is the kind of thing GPs generally don’t focus on in chats with women. “They are things which involve changing your lifestyle,” she says. This includes getting regular exercise and relaxation to reduce stress.
Spahr says much of the data on the risks of later pregnancy is based on out-of-date statistics. In the last few years there has been a big rise in the number of women getting pregnant after they turn 40. This trend has many reasons, including women not finding the right partner until later in life. She believes that the statistics are likely to change in the next few years because of the changing demographics of women who get pregnant over the age of 40.
In her book she says she expects to see fertility rates in older women rise in the coming years. This is partly due, she thinks, to women feeling younger. Her research of older mums suggests many view themselves as younger than they are. She cites research suggesting links between mental attitude, ageing and health.
Her book begins with the benefits of being a mature mum. She says research shows older mums tend to have healthier babies, for example. Many live healthier lives. They tend to breastfeed more. They spend more time with their children, have more money and tend to live longer. She says: “According to my survey, women found the advantages of later motherhood outweighed the disadvantages. They felt more ready to focus on family because they hadn’t missed out on independence and didn’t mind giving up some freedom.”
She adds that older mums tend to trust their instincts more and their children tend to have fewer accidents, although she says they may be more perfectionist simply because they have waited so long to start a family.
Spahr’s book also addresses the statistics on risk in later pregnancy – including the risk of pre-eclampsia and having a Down’s baby – and she says some are exaggerated. For instance, she says her survey of older mums showed 83 per cent had no complications at all and the others had complications within a range which was normal for women of any age.
She also says many people suggest older mums will feel more tired than their younger counterparts, but believes this depends on the person. “Some people have more energy than others,” she says. “I need less sleep now than I did in my 20s. My sister had her baby at 25 and was exhausted. I had more energy then her. It depends also on how the baby sleeps. A lot of younger women have to juggle more while older mums may have a greater support network and be more organised.”
In terms of career, she says older mums may have risen high enough up the career ladder to be able to have more clout when they negotiate maternity leave and flexible working. However, she acknowledges that after years of independence, it may be difficult adapting to having a person who is utterly dependent on you.
Spahr’s son is three in July. She worked in tv and radio for many years, focusing most recently on medical and well being. After the birth of her son, she took a sabbatical and set up a yoga resort in Goa. The resort employs naturopaths and therapists. “It gave me a real insight into different approaches to health. A lot of the people who come to our resort are very stressed out and I have seen the therapies we use lead to miraculous recoveries,” she says, adding that her research shows stress can play a huge role in fertility.
She came back from India recently having left the resort in the hands of partners. She hopes to give talks based on her book over the next few months and is going to write a regular blog to keep up to date with the research relating to older mums since she says it is changing so fast. “It’s time for more positive things to be said about being an older mother,” she says.
Right Time Baby: the complete guide to later motherhood is published by Hay House, price £12.99.