According to government statistics, the number of women aged 40 and over who have had an abortion has risen by almost a third since 2000. Last year alone a total of 8,179 over 40s made the decision to terminate their pregnancy, 650 of whom were over 45, and 21 of whom were over 50.
The figures include those of women who had actively tried to become pregnant in their 40s, but opted for a termination after screenings disclosed a high risk of abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome.
Figures also revealed that the highest number of abortions were carried out before 12 weeks, which is the time at which the first antenatal screening is due to take place.
Experts are attributing the rise to a combination of increased sexual activity among older women and larger numbers of both divorcees and singles engaging in casual and short-term sexual encounters and relationships.
British Pregnancy Advisory Service chief executive, Ann Furedi, has said she believes that women are generally remaining more sexually active for longer, and women in their 40s are now considering themselves as sexual players in a way that they didn’t a decade ago.
She commented: ‘Many older women, especially those who came off the contraceptive pill because of their age, were inclined to take chances with contraception, only to be “stunned” when they found themselves pregnant’.
Abortion is a distressing experience for any women, but those over 40 may find themselves particularly confused and in turmoil about their impending decision.
Despite many couples opting to have children later on in life, by the age of 40 the majority of women wishing for family life will already have children, and those who didn’t will usually be settled. In either case an unplanned pregnancy may be extremely difficult. Mother’s who already have a family and don’t wish to extend it any further may find that their maternal instinct leaves them feeling guilty and unsure about their decision, and women who had never planned or wanted a family may now feel overwhelmed by the fact that option is now there.
If you are faced with a similar situation and are struggling to make a decision about abortion or finding it difficult to move on after an abortion, then a counsellor may be able to help you. If you would like to find out more about counselling please visit our abortion fact-sheet for further information.