An Australian obstetrician was heaped with scorn and ridicule earlier this month when he declared that women who deferred having children until their mid-30s were ''selfish and self-centred''. Barry Walters, of King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth, said that they tended to have more medical problems and would be a burden on their children in their twilight years.
“I see many, many women with diabetes, high blood pressure and all sorts of medical problems and, of course, the older the woman is, the more likely she's got medical problems. The medical side is only part of it. It is selfish and self-centred of older women to have babies because they are not just babies - they are babies for a little while and they become people. They are starting out in life, having a family, working, getting mortgages and have to deal with geriatric parents. It's just not fair.”
Other doctors took a more optimistic view. Another leading obstetrician, Dr Ross Pagano, commented that his patients were healthier and had freely chosen their lifestyle:
“This is a worldwide situation; women's lives are different, they're more liberated, I guess, they've got careers, they want to make sure their relationship is steady, and at 37 they're quite fit and healthy compared to a 37-year-old 30 years ago. I've seen a huge increase [in the numbers of older mothers], especially in the last 10 years, but I haven't noticed a huge increase in the [medical] problems I was expecting.”
However, the issue of older mothers is unlikely to go away. Later in the month, a leading IVF specialist in Melbourne, Dr Gab Kovacs, reminded women that they should not rely upon freezing their eggs as a safety net in the event that they failed to meet Mr Right.
“I think they should be working harder to find a partner or changing their criteria for 'Mr Right'. Maybe there is no 'Mr Right' and you have to settle for 'Mr Not-Too-Bad'. There is no such thing as a perfect person for anybody, and even if they're perfect now, they won't be perfect in five or 10 years' time.”