Diana Mascarenhas coordinates her eldest daughter’s Class 10 study schedule as well as her 7-month-old son’s nap timings. And, of course, the dance and basketball classes of her other two daughters in between it all.
“It falls into place quite naturally,” says the 42-year-old mother casually.
But when she conceived her fourth child after turning 40, it was not that simple for her. “I went through my phase of shock, rejection and doubt but when I heard the baby’s heartbeat in that first sonography, I knew there was no looking back. After that whatever anyone said did not matter,” said the Bandra resident.
Just like Mascarenhas, more women in Mumbai are breaking the myth and having children after 40. A recent study, which won an award at the annual conference of the Mumbai Obstetric and Gynaecological Society held on February 13, looked at pregnancies in women above 40.
The two-year study, of which Mascarenhas was a part, showed that with vigilant care a healthy woman could go through a safe pregnancy after 40.
“I think in Mumbai, the myth that you are too old to have kids has been busted. A lot more women are opting to have children later in life. Also, the fear that you will be 60 and not have the energy for your 20-year-old child is redundant. Today 60 is no longer considered old,” said Dr Nosier Sheriar, at whose clinic the study was conducted.
“While these deliveries could be potentially complicated, women with no medical history and good care can have healthy children,” said Dr Punit Bhojani, who did the study said.
Gynaecologists across the city have witnessed a rise in the number of 40-plus women wanting and having children. “Three years ago, about 20 women over 40 would consult me in a month. Now, the number is double,” said infertility specialist Dr Anjali Malpani. Gynaecologist Dr Duru Shah, who has a clinic at Kemps Corner, said five per cent of her patients are over 40 and about 25 per cent are over 35. “In the past, I used to hardly see a woman of that age trying to have a child,” she said.
While some women put their maternal instincts on hold to focus on their careers, others had been trying to conceive unsuccessfully. “Couples, especially those who are in the finance, media and IT sector, have such a stressful life these days that they barely get to have sex and are unable to conceive. Before they know it, they are over 40,” added Dr Malpani.
Forty-two-year-old Reena Mathur (name changed) who is trying to get pregnant through IVF cycles, thinks she will make a better mother now than she would have in her 20s.“I have fulfilled all my career-related dreams. Now, I can focus completely on my child,” said the graphic designer.
But how do couples deal with the social perception of becoming parents late? “As long as your family supports you, nothing else matters. It is the mindset, not the age,” said Neelam K, who had her son last year when she was 42. “Motherhood is an individual decision. And the best part was that my 17-year-old daughter was so excited to get a sibling.”