Terra Merriweather-Schultz ,36, holds her 6-week-old twin son, Zachary Schultz in her home on March 25. Merriweather-Schultz works one eight hour shift a month as a unit secretary at Boone Hospital and spends the rest of her time taking care of her other four children.

Boone County women waiting longer to have babies

Sunday, April 17, 2011 | 11:03 a.m. CDT; updated 5:00 p.m. CDT, Sunday, April 17, 2011

COLUMBIA — Terra Schultz is skilled in the arts of making mud pies, potty training and treating boo-boos. 

After having a daughter at 18, two sons at 32 and 34 and now twins at 36, Schultz believes motherhood is one thing that only gets better with age.

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From 2006 to 2009, according to the American Community Survey, 64,649 Boone County women between 35 and 50 years old gave birth.

A total of 28,222 women ages 35 to 50 in Columbia gave birth in the years 2006, 2008, and 2009 (2007 wasn’t calculated), meaning 31.13 percent of childbearing women in Columbia were between 35 and 50 in those years.

Why are women waiting longer to jump on the baby bandwagon?   

Boone Hospital Center obstetrician Matthew Borgmeyer has a few theories.

“With improvements in assisted reproductive technology, like fertility drugs and in vitro fertilization, more women are able to get pregnant than in the past,” he said.

Borgmeyer said those advances likely affect women in their 30s the most.

Borgmeyer said a December report from the federal Division of Vital Statistics shows birth rates in 2009 were down most among teenagers and women younger than 25. They were down less among those 30 to 34 and actually up among women older than 40. Births to women older than 50 remain rare, though.

"I have taken care of a handful of 50-plus women in my career," Borgmeyer said in an e-mail. "Usually these women required assisted reproductive technologies such as previously frozen embryos or donor eggs. It is not very common, representing 0.7 births per 1,000."

Jennifer Bachman, 34, said she owes both her pregnancy successes to in vitro fertilization.

“If this technology wasn’t around, my kids wouldn’t be here,” Bachman said. “It’s amazing that millions of people today get the chance to be parents because of it.”

But there’s more to it. Better technology, Borgmeyer said, isn’t the only reason more women are waiting. There’s a social aspect to it, too.

“Now more than ever, women are waiting to complete their education and advance in their career before starting a family,” Borgmeyer said.

With a 21-month-old son, and twins (a boy and a girl) due on the Fourth of July, Bachman said she’s happy she waited until the “right time.”

“My husband and I didn’t want to have kids right away," Bachman said. "I devoted my time to becoming the director of marketing at a golf resort, and he was focused on being deputy fire chief and fire marshal. We were both really career-minded. Plus, we wanted time to travel, enjoy being married before we brought kids into the picture.”

Bachman and Schultz belong to Mothers of Multiples, a support group for moms in Columbia. Bachman said several expectant moms in the group also are in their 30s.

Waiting until your 30s, both women said, is the way to go.

“You’re more responsible, patient, knowledgeable and financially sound,” Schultz said. “Plus, when you’re older, you have more resources and a better support system.”

Schultz was 18 when she had her first child.

“I remember being so intimidated,” Schultz said. “As you grow up, you develop a stronger sense of self.”

You’re a different person in your 20s, Bachman said. “You find yourself in your 20s, but in your 30s and 40s … that’s when you truly appreciate being a mom.”

Motherhood at 30, 40 or even 50? Why not? Bachman said.

“In the 70s, it was a given. You went to high school, then maybe college, and finally, you’d get married and have kids,” Bachman said. “But no more. Women no longer have to deal with this social pressure to settle down and have kids at a certain age. It’s perfectly acceptable … to wait.”

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