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Mother at 40: why it’s no longer exceptional [Enquête] – Why it is no longer exceptional to have a baby after 40

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They are 40, 45, or even older, and (re) experience motherhood: the increase in the number of mothers in their forties is observed in all developed countries, including France. According to INSEE, in 2019, late fertility was thus 3.4 times higher than in 1980.

In 2021, it is even the oldest women who “pulled the birth rate up”, also pointed out the statistics institute at the end of September: +5.3% among those aged 40 or over against, for example, -1 .4% among 25-29 year olds.

Of course, these figures should be seen in the upward trend in the average age at childbirth since the mid-1970s: according to Inserm, this rose from 26.5 years in 1977 to 30.9 years in 2021.

At what ages do Breton women give birth?

While in 2021, the average age at childbirth was 30.9 years in France, there are small variations in Brittany: according to INSEE, it was thus 30.2 years in the Côtes- d’Armor, 30.5 years in Morbihan, 31 years in Finistère and 31.2 years in Ille-et-Vilaine.

Many reasons

From now on, giving birth to a child after 40 is no longer exceptional. And the reasons are many. Some women assume it: they want to enjoy life. So, postpone their baby project, provided they have one.

For Marie-Élise Launay, liberal midwife in Brest and co-author of “SOS post-partum”, “it also corresponds to the phase when they can have time to devote to a pregnancy”. “There is often the wish to have an established professional situation before having children”, confirms Isabelle Robert-Bobée, head of the “Surveys and demographic studies” division at INSEE. And among those who work or have already worked, it is the executives who have the highest late fertility: eleven children per 100 women, against nine in the other social groups.

From left to right: Marie-Élise Launay, Anne-Lise Pernotte and Jaqueline Wendland. (Mélanie Bodolec/Anne-Lise Pernotte/Jaqueline Wendland)

For Anne-Lise Pernotte, co-author of “Having a child at 40 (or almost)”, “the late mother is not necessarily the ‘super manager’ who has forgotten to have children. Some just haven’t found the ‘right partner’. It was at the age of 39 that Armelle, from Camors (56), crossed his path. “We tried the experiment by letting nature take its course and I was lucky enough to get pregnant quite quickly,” she rejoices. Their son is now 8 years old.

And Anne-Lise Pernotte continues: “Often, around 43-45 years old, because they give themselves as much time as possible to try to meet someone, others say to themselves: ‘This desire for a child is stronger that all. Too bad, I will do it alone”. »

Finally, “some didn’t think they would have children, weren’t sure they wanted one and therefore waited. This desire manifested itself later”, adds Jaqueline Wendland, professor of psychopathology of early childhood and parenthood at the University of Paris Cité.

“Building something together”

Many of these babies come to enlarge blended families. According to INSEE, 32% of all late births are from “couples with no common child”. “There is the desire to build something together, to seal this new union”, notes Anne-Lise Pernotte.

On the other hand, for some, becoming a mother at 40 – or more – is not a choice. Rather the conclusion of a chaotic journey. “The desire for children is there, but it doesn’t work”, she comments. Because resorting to Medically Assisted Procreation (PMA) is not a panacea. “We would have liked this to happen earlier, but life decided otherwise”, notes Pauline, from Locminé (56), who became a mother at 41, “after five years of PMA”.

And, along the way, many of them give up: “IVF remains a difficult course that one in four couples does not pursue after the failure of the first attempt”, says the National Institute for Demographic Studies (INED). ). And when they persist, it can be long: “Eight years after the start of IVF treatment, 71% of couples have achieved their parental project”. So, there, it’s a bit of a double penalty: “You have to accept your age in addition to your career,” notes Anne-Lise Pernotte.

More invested dads in their forties?

What about 40-something dads? “They are quite reassuring, enveloping. They support their partner”, answers Marie-Élise Launay. For Anne-Lise Pernotte, they are indeed “quite invested”. And to add: “There are also dads in their fifties, who have their career behind them and who make sure to make time to see their child grow up”.

Accepted pregnancies?

A few years ago, these belated desires for children were highly criticized: we talked about dangerous pregnancies after 35, we pointed to the selfishness of future mothers… Is this still the case? “In general, the entourage does not validate… or is afraid”, she explains. “But once there, the baby tends to make everyone agree,” she relativizes. For Jaqueline Wendland, “the look on these late maternity wards has changed considerably”. It must be said that we started from afar: until the beginning of the 70s, “it was a bit shameful to be pregnant at 40-45 years old. It was an age when many women became grandmothers, it was a sign of active sexuality at an age considered advanced, ”she explains. From now on, “it goes hand in hand with the fact that maternity is later. It’s still a minority, but it’s growing.

Bibliography

“SOS post-partum” by Marie-Élise Launay and Violette Suquet, at First Éditions, €12.95.

“Having a child at 40 (or almost)” by Anne-Lise Pernotte and Agathe Girod-Roux, Editions Eyrolles, €16.90.

“Primiparity after 35: desire for a child and experience of pregnancy” by Marie-Iris de Foucauld and Jaqueline Wendland, in the review “Périnatalité”.

Why it's no longer exceptional to have a baby after 40



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