Women born to older mothers have reduced fertility: Evidence from a natural fertility population

Niels Van Den Berg, Ingrid Van Dijk, Rick Mourits

Research output: Working paperPreprintAcademic


Are daughters of older mothers less fertile? The human mutation rate is high and increases with chronological age. As female oocytes age, they become less functional, reducing female chances at successful reproduction. Increased oocyte mutation loads at advanced age may be passed on to offspring, decreasing fertility among daughters born to older mothers. In this paper we study the effects of maternal ageing on her daughter's fertility, including total number of children, age at last birth, and neonatal mortality among her children. We study fertility histories of two generations of women from disjoint families from a pre-transitional historical population in the Dutch province of Zeeland. Using mixed effect Poisson models to take within family (sibling) relations into account, we show that fertility is reduced among married daughters who were born at advanced maternal age, with fewer children ever born and earlier ages at last birth. We do not find consistent evidence for effects on neonatal mortality. These results may indicate that women born to older mothers are negatively affected by their mothers' increased oocyte mutation load.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Fertility
  • mortality
  • reproductive ageing
  • mutation load
  • maternal age
  • familydemography
  • fertility outcomes
  • neonatal mortality
  • age at last birth
  • reproductive senescence


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