likelihood of a woman remaining childless at age 35 increases with each year
spent in a temporary position, a new Australian study finds.
"This is an important topic to study
because the majority of people living in Western countries want to have
children as part of leading a fulfilling life," Vivienne Moore, the
study's senior author, wrote in an email to Reuters Health.
"Most prospective parents also want
their children to be healthy," she added. Moore is a professor in the discipline
of public health and the Robinson Institute at the University of Adelaide in
Studies have previously linked childbearing
by older women with an increased risk of pregnancy and birth complications and
abnormalities among the infants, the researchers point out in the journal Human
Moore said her team's study cannot
determine why temporary jobs are linked to being childless later in
life. "However, several highly respected researchers have proposed that,
for the mainstream of the population, (having) children is highly dependent on
feeling secure about one's financial future," she said.
From that perspective, Moore added, having
a temporary job does not fulfil the financial need to start forming a family.
For their study, she and her colleagues
interviewed 643 women who were born at a hospital in Adelaide between 1973 and
1975. The women were between 32 and 35 years old at the time of the interviews.
About 67 % of the women had delivered at least one child by the time of their
Most of the women were also in stable jobs
by the time they had their children or by their interview. About 11% were in
temporary jobs. Overall, the researchers found that a year of working in a
temporary job was linked to an 8% reduced likelihood of having a child by age
35, compared to women who had no temporary jobs.
What's more, a woman's likelihood of giving
birth decreased as her time in temporary jobs increased. The likelihood of
having a first child by age 35 was 23% lower after three years of temporary
work, and 35% lower after five years.
A choice women make
Those associations held true even after the
researchers took into account the women's socioeconomic backgrounds, the
education level of the women and their partners and the birthplace of the
"Delayed motherhood is commonly viewed
as a choice women make," Moore said. "From a media analysis we
undertook, these women are often depicted as 'selfish' for (pursuing) careers
instead of family formation. "The new study, she added, shows a societal
reason for the shift toward older age at childbirth. "This is not just a
matter of individual choice," she said.
Dr Loralei Thornburg cautioned the new
study can't prove that having temporary jobs caused women to have children later.
She also said women at older ages can still have healthy pregnancies and
deliveries."It's still not a good bet that you're going to have a problem,
but it's the age when other risks start to rise," Thornburg said.
She is a high-risk pregnancy expert at the
University of Rochester Medical Centre in New York, but wasn't involved in the study.
Thornburg said women of any age should see their doctors for preconception counselling
before attempting to get pregnant.
Those visits help make sure women are
making the best decisions, she said. "Especially for women over 35, 40 or
45 (years old) who may have other medical or family concerns... Those are the
women that I strongly encourage to come in and have that conversation before
pregnancy," she said.
(Picture: Receptionist from Shutterstock)