You may have heard of “geriatric pregnancies” before, a term that refers to pregnancies carried out by women over the age of 35. Why shouldn’t we use it more?
Recorded in the maternity record, or pronounced by a health professional, this term has something frightening about it. “Geriatric pregnancy”, sometimes even “geriatric mother”, or even “geriatric birth”, suddenly, at the very advanced age of 35 years, it falls in old age, with a vermeil card supplement.
The shame of the female body
Geriatrics refers to the medicine of the elderly, etymologically it comes from the Greek word Geron, which means “old”. The frame is set. If there is no shame in getting old, or being attached to old-age terms, I still see a clear contempt for women who are no longer in their prime. . It is a way of hurting and punishing them for having prioritized their career or her wishes before considering a role as a mother.
Obviously, a woman does not age at 35, and neither does her body. This body shaming of women in their twenties, with still plump cheeks and small, firm breasts, has no place.
The author Mona Chollet talks about the figure of “the old woman” in her essay witches The undefeated power of women. Women are subject to an expiration date, with a countdown starting on their 20th birthdayThen, if we are to believe society, decadence pervades it until death ensues. The old woman is threatening, she no longer has her beauty for her, seduction and femininity are gone, she only represents evil, the witch.
That’s all I hear in “geriatric pregnancy”, a woman who decides to have an unnatural pregnancy, who has the gall to want to give life, when she should already be thinking about preparing her funeral.
Certainly, with the extension of studies in particular, and thanks to advances in reproductive medicine, we are moving towards later pregnancies, with a higher rate of possible complications. According to INSEE, French mothers today have their first child at the average age of 30.9 years, compared to 24 in 1974. It is a reality, but could we not use other terms?
How to name pregnancies after 35?
To begin with, why should a specific term be used? Why categorize pregnancies after 35 differently? Having a baby after 35 is already common. Mindsets have evolved since the 1970s, when being pregnant in your late thirties or early forties had the flavor of a small shameful transgression, a sign ofsexuality still active at an “advanced age” where others were already grandmothers.
Today, being 35 years old is being young. But physiologically, it is also a first stage of fertility: female fertility decreases, the rate of premature birth increases, the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy, as well as that of natural termination of pregnancy, preeclampsia or the rate of chromosomal abnormality.
Therefore, the follow-up of a pregnancy after the age of 35 may be slightly different., or even very different depending on the case. Then other levels follow: 40 years, 42 years, 45 years. Beyond that, pregnancies are much rarer since menopause usually occurs around the age of 50. The last births were registered in women aged 65 to 70 who had resorted to IVF with oocyte donation.
I also notice that we are not talking about geriatric parenting or geriatric fathers, but there are much more men who have children late, since some of them remain fertile until the end of their lives. But contrary to popular belief, male fertility declines with ageand also the quality of their gametes, which is not without risk for babies conceived.
Rather than talking about geriatric pregnancy, even in the case of pregnancies from 40, 45 or 50 years old, we can use another “official” term, and less stigmatizing: late pregnancy. Yes, it happens “late” in the woman’s fertile period (between the first menstruation and menopause), no, the pregnant woman is not an old woman.
We could also simply speak in fact of “pregnancy after 35/40 years”, instead of enclosing women and mothers once again in shackles of guilt and judgement.
Women have no “daddy issues”, they have zero darons and they live in a sexist world.
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