As new NHS guidelines recommend an increase in the upper age limit of women being offered fertility treatment, Zita Collinson speaks to three women who all became mums in their 40s
Sleepless nights and the sheer physical toll of pregnancy are just some of the least desired side effects of motherhood. For previous generations, it was a young woman's game but times are changing.
The latest figures reveal that nearly half of live births were to mums aged 30 and over.
Meanwhile data from the Office of National Statistics, shows that in 2011, a fifth of babies had mums over the age of 35.
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And it seems the NHS has reacted to the trend.
New guidelines have recently recommended that older women should have access to IVF.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has advised that the upper age limit should rise from 39 to 42 in England and Wales.
Jane Green, from Nantwich, had her first and only child when she was 43.
The former teacher is mum to Sam, aged 18 months old. Sam is also the first child of Jane's partner, John Gill, 43.
The couple moved to Cheshire from their previous home in Cambridgeshire when Sam was a few weeks old.
Jane is currently enjoying a break from her 15-year long career as a primary school headteacher.
"While I was pregnant, John got a job in Cheshire," says Jane. "We had a period just after Sam was born where he was commuting but we decided we would take the plunge and move to Nantwich.
"We really like it. It made the decision about not going back to work really easy for me. I wasn't particularly keen to go back to work, although I would have done, part-time at least. It's actually nice to be at home.
"I'm loving it. In some ways, that is a bonus of being a bit older.
"The friends who I have who are younger are still establishing careers and it's really important to go back to work. I sort of feel like there's not a lot more I can do. I've done a headship and one day I'll go back to it I'm sure.
"I think it's tough when you're younger. You've got to keep it all going because you're looking towards your future career for the next 20, 30, 40 years, whereas I think yes, it would be nice to go back at some point, but for now, being with Sam is great. I don't have anything to prove.
"I'm not being blase about it. It's hard to manage on one salary but you make choices. You don't have expensive holidays and I can't remember the last time I bought a pair of shoes.
"You're just more careful for a while. It's not forever is it?"
Jane had always wanted children and says she put pressure on herself to become a mum when she was in her 30s.
"I've been married before," she says. "I always wanted to have a child but it didn't happen.
"In my 30s I'd really tried but I wasn't keen to try IVF, so I just thought that was it.
"Then I met John, we were happy and in love. John knew that I wanted a child and we just said to each other, 'We'll just see what happens.' We were very, very lucky.
"The sadness in it is that if we'd have met sooner and we'd had Sam sooner we would have gone on and had more children. But you have to be sensible.
"I'm now 44 and in a few months' time I'll be 45. I ask if it would be fair to have a younger sibling for Sam when more things could go wrong.
"There are more risks attached. We'd be less innocent the second time around.
"Although with Sam everything turned out fine. I'm perhaps being a scaremonger."
Toddler Sam is certainly keeping his mum and dad busy.
"He's running around, trying to talk," says Jane. "I was a teacher for years and it's so different when it's your own. We used to talk about being consistent at school but it's a different kettle of fish being consistent for 15 hours a day with a toddler.
"But he's great, just fantastic. The three of us are really enjoying family life."
C hristine Harrison knows what it's like to start a family in later life. The 46-year-old, whose partner is Christopher Harrison, had her last child, Libby, five years ago.
Christine already had three children – Lindsey, aged 23, 17-year-old Amy and Aidan, 16 – from a previous relationship.
But when she met Christopher, the couple, who live in Silverdale, decided they wanted to try for a baby.
As well as Libby, Christine and Christopher are also mum and dad to seven-year-old Abygail.
Christine is a grandmother too – to three-year-old Ellie, the daughter of Lindsey.
And the 18-year gap between her eldest and youngest child, makes Christine realise how much maternity care has changed within two decades.
"I think this time around, I was treated as though I was more important," she says. "The equipment is so much better now. I was given my own room from start to finish, whereas before I was in a cubicle.
"The care has improved."
Being 41 when she had Libby meant that Christine got more tired easily.
Although she had uncomplicated pregnancies with both Libby and Abygail, Christine had to be induced.
"Neither wanted to come out," she says. "My very first pregnancy with Lindsey wasn't easy but with Abygail and Libby I was much more worried about having to be induced.
"I was terrified that I had to have a caesarian section, but in the end I had natural deliveries with both. In the end I was in for about three days.
"My body just wasn't co-operating but I don't know if that was anything to do with me being older.
"If anything, I thought that I'd be a dab hand at it because it was my fourth and fifth child. It just wasn't as easy as I expected.
"This time around, I thought more pressure was on to breastfeed compared with when I had Lindsey.
"I felt like I'd got to do it. With the others I didn't try breastfeeding but I did with the two little ones.
"Also I felt that it was assumed I was an experienced mother that I knew a lot.
"I was just as nervous and mithered and worried, as a young girl or a first time mum. I did get the impression that it was very much, 'Oh you'll be OK, you'll be in and out', and it didn't turn out like that.."
Christine noticed that her body took longer to recover with her latest pregnancies.
"Weight-wise I struggled," she continues. "I don't know if it's because of that but I acquired a hernia.
"Whether it's because I've had five children or because I've had children in later life and it's weakened my muscles, I don't know.
"My partner hadn't got any children at the time so it was important to him.
"At first we took quite a while to conceive so we were getting a bit worried.
"It would have been about 18 months.
"We did go to a clinic but they wouldn't fund or help us because I'd already got three.
"That might not seem long to someone else, but to me it did. Time was slipping away.
"I was 38, then 39, and I thought it was going. Every time a month went by, I was getting closer to another year of getting older.
"It was a case of I wanted it to happen sooner rather than later."
Christine says that she is one of the older mums at her children's primary school.
"I find it really hard," she says. "I have been asked if they were my grandchildren on occasions.
"It seems like the other mums at school are my eldest daughter's age.
"With my first three, everyone was very much my age so you went to play groups together but I do sometimes stand there and think, 'Oh I feel old'.
"It is daunting to think I've got to start all over again now, but I really love my girls and I wouldn't change a thing."
M um-of-four Joanne Bourne had her baby, Daniel, just 11 days short of her 40th birthday – meaning she missed out on her big celebration.
Daniel is now aged 18 months, and a lively toddler who keeps his mum on her toes.
Now aged 41, Joanne also has two more children – 15-year-old Robert Stonier, from her previous marriage, and Matthew, aged six.
She is married to Chris, aged 40, and the family lives in Talke.
But she says it's difficult when one son is preparing for his GCSEs and one is teething.
"At the moment, Robert is arranging work experience so we've been sorting all his school work out," says Joanne.
"Then I've got Matthew who comes home with a lot of homework.
"It's trying to balance all that when you've got a toddler hanging around.
"But Robert loves his little brothers to bits. With there being 10 years' difference between him and Matthew, you do wonder how he's going to react but he was a nice age to have a younger brother.
"Having a toddler means you're on all day. Once you've done one job, there's another to do, but he's lovely. He's ever so good.
"The only thing is, is that he's only just started sleeping through at night, whereas with the other two I was all right. That's where I can tell I'm a bit older, because I do get tired more easily."
Joanne, a housewife, continues: "I think you are fitter when you're younger.
"I'm not saying I don't enjoy it. I enjoy every bit.
"Daniel keeps me young but it is hard work."
Joanne says all her pregnancies were easy – with 7lb 9oz Daniel making his appearance into the world in one hour and 20 minutes.
"It didn't bother me at all, really, being older because I have always been quite healthy," Joanne says.
"I worked up until two weeks before I had Daniel which was hard going.
"I did a lot of shift work so I didn't know where I was.
"I went back to work when I had Matthew.
"I do like being off with Daniel now because I felt like I missed out. I did lose touch a bit.
"I had Robert and was on my own with him from when he was about 13 months old. Robert was just turning five when I met Chris. We didn't rush things but we eventually decided to start a family.
"This time around, with having Chris, it's been a lot better. Don't get me wrong, it was nice when it was just me and Robert too, but when I met Chris he and Robert got on really well."
She continues: "I do keep thinking that I'll be at primary school with Daniel when I'm 50.
"I was just 11 days short of my 40th birthday when I had Daniel, but couldn't go anywhere with breastfeeding and I still haven't had chance to make up for it now!"