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Hilary Mantel: Some teenagers are ready for children

1st March 2010

Award-winning author Hilary Mantel has spoken out in support of teenage mums, saying that some women may benefit from giving birth at a younger age.

The writer, who won the Man Booker Prize for Wolf Hall, told the Sunday Telegraph that the age at which women procreate is generally dictated by men's timetables.

'Having sex and having babies is what young women are about. And their instincts are suppressed in the interests of society's timetable,' she said.

'I think it is that men's lives have set the timetable. Men reach a sort of sexual peak when you are 20, a social peak when you are 40.'

Mantel, who is herself unable to have children due to a womb condition she developed in her 20s, thinks she could have coped with having children at 14.

The author's comments have attracted a mixed response, with Sue MacDonald, of the Royal College of Midwives, telling the newspaper that while 14-year-olds may be able to physically cope with pregnancy they are unlikely to be psychologically mature enough to have a child.

However, Dr Claire Alexander, editor of the study Teenage Parenthood: What's the Problem?, said teen pregnancy can inspire many young mums to turn their lives around.

Figures released last week showed the UK's teen pregnancy rate had fallen in the last decade, dropping to 40.4 conceptions per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 17 in 2008 compared to 46.6 ten years earlier.

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