WHAT is the best age to have a baby?
Women are constantly bombarded with information about when they hit optimum fertility, yet pregnancy rates are falling for women of all ages – apart from those in their forties.
In that age range, according to the Office for National Statistics, there are 15.4 pregnancies per thousand women – up two per cent, and more than double the 1990s statistic.
The rise is thought to be down to women placing an increased importance on their careers.
Here, four women who gave birth at different stages of life tell ALLEY EINSTEIN and CLAIRE DUNWELL about the trials and tribulations of becoming a mum at their respective ages.
MUM-of-three Kirstie Thompson first got pregnant as a teen.
The 24-year-old lives in Ilminster, Somerset, with husband Carl, 29, a landscaper, and kids Danny-Jay, seven, Ruby, four, and Ebony, two.
She says: "I was a tearaway teen before I had Danny-Jay. I was partying and drinking under age.
"When I realised I was pregnant at 16, I was shocked. I was suddenly faced with a situation my mum couldn’t get me out of, like she normally did.
"There was never any discussion about terminating the pregnancy.
"The moment I held DJ was the moment I changed from reprobate to responsible mum.
"I lived at home with my parents for a few months after giving birth, but I was determined to show everyone I could do it right. I took responsibility for everything and kept up school work.
No work to get in the way of me and my children
"I may have put off starting a job but the experience I have had raising my kids is better than any workplace could provide.
"I was committed to being the best mum I could be and had my other two children quickly after.
"Money may be tight but I don’t have any work distractions getting between me and the children.
"Once the kids are all in school I plan to go back to study midwifery. My thirties will be about helping to get us financially stable.
"I just do not understand why any woman would put off having a child."
HAVING kids in your twenties means you have longer to enjoy them, according to Amanda Stewart, 35.
The early years worker lives in Carluke, South Lanarkshire, with husband Jamie, 34, a web developer, and children Callan, nine, and Erryn, six.
She says: "I always planned to have two children by the time I hit 30. We didn’t want to leave a big gap in between because we wanted to be young enough to enjoy them growing up.
"When the kids are in their twenties, we’ll be in our fifties, so Jamie and I will have time again to spend as a couple.
"The mortgage should be almost cleared, and the kids will hopefully be off doing their own things.
"I met Jamie when I was 18 and in our early twenties we went on long-haul holidays and weekends away.
"We wanted to do all the things we wouldn’t be able to do when the kids came along.
"Now we’re fun parents because we like to have a good time with the kids.
"We don’t dictate to the kids and we’re not too strict but they know their boundaries.
"We have a healthy balance and I hope the kids feel they can talk to us about anything when they’re older.
We look forward to our two becoming parents
"Women who leave having kids late risk missing out on milestones.
"We’re looking forward to seeing Callan and Erryn get married and have children of their own.
"If we had waited to become parents in our thirties or forties, the clock would have been ticking."
FORMER medical researcher Sasha McDowell, 42, from Bournemouth, is mum to Katinka, ten, and Eiden, seven.
She says: "Every day I look at my two and I know I was right to have them in my thirties.
As a teen I could not have given the big love
"Eiden suffers from galactosyltransferase-1 deficiency, which affects the way the cells in his body are structured. It is so rare he is literally a one-in-a-billion boy. He needs 24-hour care.
"If I’d had him in my teens or twenties I would never have been able to give him and Katinka the “big love”, as I call it, like I can now.
"Many of my mates had children as soon as they left school, got married and by their late twenties were divorced. Instead, I was working as a nurse and then as a medical researcher travelling the world.
"I had two long-term relationships, but it wasn’t until my thirties that I met the kids’ dad.
"I’d been diagnosed with endometriosis (a condition affecting the uterus) and the doctors told me that having children would be hard.
"I was 31 when I had Katinka and work allowed me to have a longer maternity leave. That’s the benefit of a decade of working before having kids.
"Three years later, Eiden was born and required constant care. Work gave me time off and eventually I quit.
"My relationship failed but we still see each other daily. Going it alone has been hard but my life experience has been critical to making it work.
"Now I do mum and daughter pageants.
"I don’t have time to date. I give up “me time” for my children.
"It can be tough, but I wouldn’t change anything."
SPORTS therapist Tracey Disdel, 51, lives in Doncaster with husband Simon, 52, a warehouse manager, and their son Ollie, seven, above as a baby.
She says: "I hadn’t planned to be a mum for the first time in my forties but it’s the best decision I made.
"People said having a baby at 43 was risky, but putting off kid until the verge of menopause has made me a better mum and a better person.
"In my twenties and thirties I was focused on my career in fashion and living the hectic city life in London.
"I had given up on the thought of children as I couldn’t find the right man to get serious with.
"I finally found my perfect man and we got married at the age of 37. I had tests to check my fertility and was told everything was fine.
"But I still wasn’t pregnant at 40. We tried four rounds of artificial insemination which failed, so we registered for IVF.
"At this point we moved to Doncaster. We wanted a slower pace of living.
I give son more time than younger mums
"At 43, we conceived naturally and Ollie was born. Despite horror stories about mature mums, I didn’t have any problems with the pregnancy.
"I can give him more time than friends who had babies in their twenties.
"Some people say their forties are about “me time” but I say it’s “maternity time” and I would not change a thing."