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While the age of motherhood is creeping ever upward, women who decide to have babies in their 50s are still considered a cultural oddity – or at least something best left to wealthy celebrities.

A provocative New York magazine cover story delves into the motivations of regular moms who gave birth in their 50s – and the pros and cons of their choices.

You can't miss the newsstand cover: It features a provocative take on the famous naked Demi Moore Vanity Fair cover. (It's photoshopped; the model is 63 and is not pregnant.)

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As writer Lisa Miller characterizes it, no matter how they arrive at late parenting – egg donor, surrogate or adoption – there's a raft of judgment awaiting them:

"A new child may be a blessed event, but when a 50-year-old decides to strap on the Baby Björn, that choice is seen as selfish and overwhelmingly prompts something like a moral gag reflex."

She refers to a post she saw on a parenting message board: "Just because you can," it read, "doesn't mean you should."

Ms. Miller lists many of the health risks older mothers and their babies face: preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, hypertension. The risk of autism increases by 30 per cent for mothers over 40, and 50 per cent for fathers over 40, Lisa Croen, a senior scientist at Kaiser Permanente told Ms. Miller.

(Women who get pregnant over 45 using donor eggs have a lower risk of Down syndrome, though, because they're using donor eggs at that point, she writes.)

And then there's the social downside: Statistics suggest that a child born to two 50-year-old parents will lose her father when she's 25 and her mother when she's 30.

But there is good news: The "kids are likely to fare just fine," writes Ms. Miller.

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In one study of children conceived by in-vitro fertilization, IVF kids scored better in cognitive tests in reading, math and language skills. The older the mother, the better the kid performed, writes Ms. Miller. The thinking is that older mothers tend to have fewer kids, more time to be with them, more money – and less stress than moms in their 30s and 40s, according to one study.

What's more, having babies late may extends a person's life. One researcher has found that "women who gave birth to children after the age of 40 were four times more likely to live to 100 than those who did not," and hypothesized that while the finding showed a link between an "unusually healthy reproductive system and longevity," there may also be something about living with children that keeps us healthy.

So, do you think we'll start seeing more parents in their 50s at music circle? Is it any of our business?

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