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Childbirth Age Drops

Posted May. 02, 2008 03:06,   

한국어

A 29-year-old office worker named Choi Eun-joo living in Seoul gave birth to her first baby two weeks ago. After marriage in 2005, she had postponed having a baby for some time. Her desire to be successful in her career not only made her reluctant to be a mother. But her colleagues, who delivered their first babies in their 30s though they married in their 20s, led her to delay pregnancy.

However, last year she changed her mind. She witnessed that the health of one of her close colleagues deteriorated after giving birth to a baby in her mid-30s. And after seeing some fellow employees were forced out of the company before their children go to college, she concluded that having children as soon as possible was a better choice by all aspects.

“Young women tend to think of childbearing as an obstacle to their career. But that perception seems to change these days,” said Choi. “Isn’t it better for mothers to deliver babies and raise them when they are young?”

▽ Growing Number of Young Mothers

The Dong-A Ilbo obtained on Thursday a report regarding statistics on mothers and new-born babies for the year of 2007, jointly prepared by the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs and the Planned Parenthood Federation of Korea. According to the report, the number of late childbearing by mothers aged 35 and over dropped while that of young mothers in their 20s rose compared to 2003. The researchers who participated in drawing up the report analyzed the ages of 94,933 mothers, or 20 percent of 471,414 mothers who gave birth to babies last year.

The proportion of women who gave birth to children at ages between 35 and 39 has steadily increased from 12.6 percent in 2003 to 13.7 percent in 2004 to 15.1 percent 2005 and to 17.7 percent in 2006. But the pace of the growth reversed in 2007 posting 14.9 percent.

For the same period, the share those aged 40 to 44 has fluctuated by small margins: 2.0 percent in 2003, 1.8 percent in 2004, 1.85 percent in 2005 and 2.4 percent in 2006. And the 2007 figure marked 1.75 percent. The World Health Organization calls childbearing of those mothers aged 35 and over “late childbearing.”

The ratio of mothers who delivered babies at the ages between 30 and 34 remained almost steady at upper 40 percent during the same period: 49.2 percent in 2003, 48.4 percent in 2004, 48.3 percent in 2005 and 48.7 percent in 2006. However, the ratio plunged to 44.6 percent in 2007.

In the case of those aged from 25 to 29, however, the share rose to 33.1 percent last year after experiencing steady drops over the past four years: 31.2 percent in 2003, 31.3 percent in 2004, 30.2 percent in 2005 and 26.8 percent in 2006.

Childbearing of young mothers aged 20 to 24 topped 5 percent last year for the first time in five years after marking 4.7 percent in 2003, 4.5 percent in 2004, 4.3 percent in 2005 and 3.9 percent in 2006.

▽ Bear Young and Rear Children Healthy

Behind the decrease in the number of women who bear children in their 30s and the increase in their 20s lies the spreading perception that late pregnancy and childbearing are risky.

It is reported that the likelihood of having a baby with Down Syndrome, a birth defect, drastically rises from the mid-30s. In addition, pregnant women at 35 and older are three times more likely to suffer miscarriages than those in their 20s.

“Pregnant women in their late 30s and 40s should watch for miscarriages, premature births, deformed babies, antenatal complications, and gestational diabetes mellitus,” said Choi Tae-yoon, a professor of clinical pathology at Soonchunhyang University.

Another factor behind the increasing number of young mothers is a growing number of young people who prefer enjoying their retirement after early childbearing and rearing to enjoying now.

Changing culture in the workplace is also influencing young women’s decision. In the past, women were forced to quit when they married and gave birth to children. But now it has become customary for women to return to work after childbirth.

“Working moms think bearing and rearing children when they are young is more reasonable and more conducive to developing their career,” said Kim Seong-hee, head of the health support team at the Planned Parenthood Federation of Korea.



zozo@donga.com