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It's time to rethink the term 'geriatric pregnancy' as more women wait to have children

Women are having children well past 40 but are considered "geriatric" after 35.

pregnancy; motherhood; geriatric pregnancy; moms having babies later; parenthood

Rethinking the term 'geriatric pregnancy' as more women wait for kids

In more recent decades, women have started to delay having children or decide to not have them at all. Society has been taught that women must have children when they're in their 20s because that's when fertility is highest. Unfortunately it's true that fertility declines as women age, but pregnancy is still possible up until menopause.

Even if someone previously didn't want children, with technology they have the option to change their minds much later in life. Many women have taken to the idea of having more life and career experience before brining about children. But the language around pregnancy in women over 35 is still pretty offensive.

This now more common phenomenon of waiting until later in life to have children is medically called a geriatric pregnancy, though some doctors sugar coat it by calling it "advanced maternal age." Neither of these terms feels indicative of a warm feeling you're expected to experience while growing a child. BBC's The Global Story podcast blows through some pretty unfortunate misconceptions and truths about pregnancy after 35 in an interview with the Head of Reproductive Science and Sociology Group, UCL.


The two women co-hosting the podcast are both moms who waited to have children after the magic number. While having a baby after 35 is considered geriatric, some women are having babies into their 70s. Dr. Ssali says, "last week we successfully delivered this lady who was 70 years of age of twins, a boy and a girl. Previously we had treated her with IVF, again the same process, three years ago and she conceived and delivered a baby girl."

Of course choosing to have a baby in your 70s is well outside the normal age for childbearing, 35-50 isn't since many of these women are still capable of natural pregnancy without intervention. A woman's fertility decreases with age but it doesn't go down to zero until after menopause has fully set in. If it were impossible to conceive there wouldn't be a term called, "menopause baby," which simply means someone became pregnant during their perimenopausal phase.

Professor Joyce Harper, the head of reproductive science and sociology explains, that while women's eggs lose fertility over the years, the uterus never does. This is why IVF using donated eggs for older hopeful parents can be successful. The trend of later in life babies isn't one to soon end as the age a woman births her first child increases by one year every decade.

"The average age [for first time moms] globally is 28," Stephanie Hegarty, BBC Population Correspondent says. "60 years ago the average age was 22 and every decade it's gone up globally by about a year."

Hegarty expands on the thought by adding people can continue to have babies as they get older. But when it comes to why people are choosing to have children later in life, economics plays a big part in whether people decide to have children or not. Raising a child is expensive and the cost of living has only gotten more exorbitant while wages have stayed largely the same. The experts on the podcast also said girls and women becoming more educated has pushed desires for motherhood to later years.

It's certainly something to consider when it comes to terminology. If the trend of increasing average age for women delivering their first child continues, then in another few decades, 35 will be the average age. Will we still be calling it geriatric pregnancy or advanced maternal age, then? Maybe a language change is in order before we reach that stage.

All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.


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