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Hum Reprod. 2011 Jun;26(6):1389-98. doi: 10.1093/humrep/der076. Epub 2011 Mar 25.

Age at first birth, mode of conception and psychological wellbeing in pregnancy: findings from the parental age and transition to parenthood Australia (PATPA) study.

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  • 1Centre for Emotional Health, Department of Psychology, Macquarie University, Sydney, NSW 2109, Australia. cathy.mcmahon@mq.edu.au

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

It is increasingly common for women in high-income countries to delay childbearing. We aimed to describe the context of pregnancy for first-time mothers of different ages and examine relationships among maternal age at first birth, mode of conception and psychosocial wellbeing in pregnancy.

METHODS:

Using stratified sampling, we recruited similar numbers of women conceiving through assisted reproductive technology (ART; n = 297) or spontaneously (n = 295) across three age groups: younger, ≤ 20-30 years; middle, 31-36 years; older, ≥ 37 years. Women participated in a structured interview and completed validated questionnaires assessing socio-economic status, personality, quality of partner relationship, state and trait anxiety, pregnancy-focused (P-F) anxiety and maternal-fetal attachment.

RESULTS:

Older maternal age was associated with lower depression and anxiety symptoms, lower maternal-fetal attachment (P< 0.05), greater psychological hardiness (resilience) (P< 0.001) and lower ratings of control in the partner relationship (P< 0.05) at a univariate level. ART conception, but not older maternal age, was associated with more P-F anxiety. Although most main effects of age and mode of conception became non-significant after controlling for contextual/reproductive history variables, a significant association between ART conception and more intense fetal attachment emerged (P< 0.05).

CONCLUSIONS:

Women having their first baby when older appear to have some psychological advantages over their younger counterparts; they are more resilient, report their partners as less controlling and report lower symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy. However, women conceiving through ART have a more complex experience of pregnancy, simultaneously experiencing more P-F anxiety and more intense emotional attachment to the fetus.

PMID:
21441544
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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