the ask@AAR: Will older heroines in romance mean older parents?

I have been thrilled to see more love stories published with older protagonists. I’ve just finished reading one–coming out this summer–where the heroine, age 49, is determined to get married and have kids. I confess, I was thrown at first by this. (Full disclosure: I struggled with infertility when I began trying to get pregnant at 29. Three out of my four children are Pergonal babies.)

On the one hand, there is no getting around the fact that the ability to get pregnant is strongly correlated with age. For women, fertility begins to drop around age 32, begins to plummet after 37, and, by age 45, the chances of an unaided pregnancy, hover at around 0%. Technology improves those numbers but it’s still an uphill battle. In vitro has around a 35% chance of succeeding if the mom is under 35. That number drops to around 22% for moms between 38 to 40, 13% for those 41-42, and, for women over 42, has around a 6% success rate. Infertility treatments are expensive and often not covered by health insurance–and around half of all moms who get pregnant over 40 have needed help to conceive.

On the other hand, romance novels are aspirational and should not be limited by the real world probabilities. Just as there are an absurd number of dukes in Regency romance–and that’s fine–it’s fine to have older moms who long for kids have them, whether through childbirth, adoption, or foster care. And though birthrates in the US for women have been declining for years, births to women over 40 have gone up by 3% every year for the past 30 years. (The average age for first time moms is 26.) Pregnancies to moms over 40 now make up 2% of all live births.

Fifty does seem remarkably old to be giving birth. (The heroine uses an egg donor and has a very wealthy spouse.) That said, the benefits of older parents are well-documented. And I am firmly of the belief that all children should be wanted and no one suffers through infertility treatments who doesn’t desperately want a child.

My bet is we will see more and more older moms in romance, especially in contemporary romance. And, after thinking about that likelihood, I’ve realized I’m good with that. Just as love stories should be for everyone, making a family should too. What do you think? Are you seeing more older pregnancies in your reading? How does it strike you?

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