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Factors Influencing Women’s Decisions About Timing of Motherhood


Address for correspondence: Dr. Karen Benzies, RN, PhD, Faculty of Nursing, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4. E-mail:


Objective:  To examine the factors that influence women’s decisions about the timing of motherhood from a life span perspective.

Design:  Qualitative.

Setting:  Large Western Canadian city with a high rate of infants born to women aged 35 years and older.

Participants:  45 Canadian women aged 20 to 48 years.

Results:  Independence, a stable relationship, and declining fertility influenced women’s decisions about the timing of motherhood. Women integrated child developmental transitions into a projected life plan as they considered the timing of motherhood. Partner readiness and family of origin influences played a lesser role. Delayed childbearing has become more socially acceptable, with subsequent negative connotations associated with younger motherhood. Parental benefits have limited influence on the timing of motherhood.

Conclusions:  Recognition by nurses of the various and complex factors that influence women’s decisions about the timing of motherhood may flag the importance of pregnancy-related counseling for woman across the fertility life span. Policy decision makers must be cognizant of the need for additional high-risk obstetric and neonatal health services when societal norms encourage women to delay childbearing in favor of completing education and establishing a career. JOGNN, 35, 625-633; 2006. DOI: 10.1111/J.1552-6909.2006.00079.x