The Great Recession has been tough on the baby business.
Just ask obstetrician Ruth Haskins, a private practitioner in Folsom, Calif., who along with her colleagues has seen a dramatic drop in recent years in the number of women scheduling appointments for prenatal care.
Or business owner Kerri Kaye, whose upscale Starlight Starbright baby store in Folsom has watched sales dip as jobs have disappeared and budgets have become tighter.
But one group of women is bucking the trend.
Women age 40 and older, both in the Sacramento region and statewide in California, are having more babies than ever.
Overall, births in the Sacramento region fell by 9 percent between 2007 and 2010. But about 12 of every 1,000 women ages 40 to 44 gave birth in the region in 2010, up 5 percent from 2007, and up 31 percent from 2000. About 975 local women age 40 and older had babies in 2010, nearly a record.
In the Sacramento area, women who are older when they give birth tend to live in wealthier ZIP codes with relatively high numbers of college-educated residents.
They are women like Stefanie Anderson, 42, who is pregnant with her first child, conceived through in vitro fertilization; Jessica Light, 43, a veterinarian who gave birth to her seventh child last year; and Christine Krause, 42, whose newborn son, Maxwell, was a "surprise" addition to the family but no less a blessing.
A security manager at Intel, Anderson said she envisioned having a baby at 25 or 26. But her first marriage, to a man, was brief. She was on a fast career track and "it just never came to fruition," she said. Then she turned 40, and met her partner, Megan, who always wanted children.
"I'm satisfied with my job and I'm well set financially and otherwise," she said. "So it's looking like a very good time to do this."
Given her age, Anderson was concerned that conception would be difficult. The couple sought out donor eggs and sperm and "everything fell into place perfectly," said Anderson. She is nearly four months pregnant and looking forward to presenting her parents with their first grandchild.
Women over 40 still account for only a small percentage of those giving birth -- 4 percent in Sacramento. But older moms face less of a social stigma today, and medical advances have made pregnancy and childbirth less scary for them.
Still, women giving birth after age 40 still are about four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related factors after giving birth than women in their 20s, although such deaths are rare, according to the state Department of Public Health. They also are more likely to undergo Caesarean sections and have babies diagnosed with autism.
When Krause became pregnant last year with her unplanned baby, Max, her third child, she underwent genetic testing for the first time. Before the births of her daughters Samantha, now 12, and Allison, 8, "I waived those tests," she said. "But I knew the risk factors would be higher at my age." The tests came out fine.
Krause, a full-time mom whose husband, Matthew, manages a logistics company in Roseville, had an unremarkable pregnancy although she suffered more morning sickness and fatigue than she did while carrying her daughters.
"It definitely was different this time," she said.
But in other ways, women in their 40s may be better equipped than their younger counterparts to handle the stresses of bringing a new life into the world.
"Older women seem to enjoy their babies more," Haskins, the obstetrician, said. "Their careers are more established. Maybe they can afford nannies. They have broad social networks. They seem more patient. Some of them have waited a long time, so they really, really appreciate their babies."
Light, a dairy-cow veterinarian who lives in Rancho Murieta, a Sacramento suburb, with her geologist husband, Jeff, and their seven youngsters ages 6 months to 13 years, certainly does.
She had her first baby when she was 30, and her last one just six months ago.
"Getting up in the middle of the night to nurse an infant right now, it's jarring at first," said Light. "But by the time I get to the crib, I feel fortunate that I am able to spend a half-hour with this new baby.
"When I was 20, I don't think I would have felt that way. But now, in my forties, I'm at the top of my game, and I have learned to live in the moment and be grateful for everything that I have been given. I don't waste any energy wishing this kid would sleep more at night."
(Contact reporter Cynthia Hubert at chubert(at)sacbee.com)