On January 23, 2019, the French National Institute of Demographic Studies (INED) published the research results by 2 scientists on late motherhood, which is occurring more and more frequently in the developed countries.
In the 20th century, economic and social developments have markedly changed women’s fertility patterns in the developed countries. These researchers account for this by the phenomenon of women delaying their first pregnancy until age 40 and over. They note that in 1984, first births at age 40 accounted for less than 0.5% of first births. In 2014 they represented between 2% and 4.7% depending on the country: a spectacular increase in delayed pregnancy, partially due to ART.
The causes of this delay are cumulative: people are staying longer in education, delayed entry into the labour market, family planning, various sentimental choices, and pregnancies resulting from a second union. Abortions and widespread use of contraceptives are also cited as important causes.
Today, even the pregnancy rate among women over 50 years is on the increase: in the European Union there were 287 cases in 2002, compared to 1,293 in 2016. However, several studies warn against the complications of delaying pregnancy to a later age: pre-eclampsia, hypertension, gestational diabetes, as well as a higher percentage of caesarean deliveries and premature births…
Included in the new bioethical bill agenda in France, is the possibility to conserve one’s oocytes, thus insinuating that pregnancy can be delayed beyond a possible and “reasonable” age.
Already in 2005, the French High Council on Population and the Family noted their concern for “health risks for the child and the mother” related to delayed pregnancy by denouncing it as a “social problem” and a “genuine public health problem “. Faced with this somber scenario, the High Council has called on public authorities to perform their «dutiful obligation to inform citizens so they can make informed choices“, and to ensure “stricter ART supervision”.
As Alliance VITA advocated in its hearings during the French Bioethics Law revision, awareness campaigns for young girls and boys are urgently needed, to stress the importance of biological clocks and bearing children during natural fertility periods, relatively young. Infertility prevention needs realistic information on fertility and a genuine political commitment to promoting social conditions that allow young women to juggle with higher education, entry into the professional life and maternity.