The New Abnormal: Being Pregnant Over 40

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Former model and actress Brigitte Nielsen, 54, announced on May 30th that she is expecting her fifth child and first with her 39-year-old husband Mattia Dessì. Given her age, the response to the news was both celebrated and criticized. Many questioned whether being pregnant at age 54 is healthy.

According to Mayo Clinic, women older than age 35 have a higher risk of miscarriage than do younger women. At age 35, you have about a 20 percent risk. At age 40, the risk is about 40 percent. And at age 45, it’s about 80 percent.

On average, the CDC data shows that women today are having their first child at roughly age 28 in contrast to just 197o when the average age was 21. In 2016, the birth rate for women aged 30-34 surpassed that of women aged 25-29, the demographic with the highest birth rate for more than three decades. Professional women are thought to be delaying motherhood because they have chosen to pursue stable careers first or they didn’t marry until later in life.

With the well-known increased risk factors, such as gestational diabetes, for women giving birth later in life,  people online had strong opinions about Nielsen’s announcement.

Nielsen is not the only nor the first female celebrity or public figure to have a child after 50. A year ago, Janet Jackson gave birth to her first child as well as Senator Tammy Duckworth just a month ago at age 50. According to Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Yale University, birthrates among older women are increasing. In 2017, women in their early 40s were the only group with higher birth rates, up 2 percent. Women are living longer, taking birth control for longer periods, and having access to more fertility options.

“Being a mother is the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Nielsen. “Before you have your first baby you are a girl and then you become a mother. There is no transition into being a woman. You literally become a mum and being a mum means you always love someone else more than yourself and it is an unexplainable situation.”

What appears to be a trend or a reflection of the changes in society, women waiting to have children is becoming very common, especially among celebrities. Influencers like Nielsen are certainly paving the way for older women with the dream of conceiving children later in life, but some people appear not to be ready for it. The critics who are judging this change in society are accused by others as being sexist, as male celebrities like George Clooney and Simon Cowell have had children after the age of 50.

Motherhood seems to be possible at any age and what society has always believed to be “appropriate” is subjective.


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