Geriatric pregnancy: why is this term unacceptable?

You may have heard of “geriatric pregnancies” before, the term referring to pregnancies carried out by women over the age of 35. Why shouldn’t we use it anymore?

Noted in the maternity file, or pronounced by a health professional, this term has something to cringe. “Geriatric pregnancy”, sometimes even “geriatric mother”, or even “geriatric childbirth”, all of a sudden, at the very advanced age of 35 years, one falls into the third 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 man”. The frame is set. If there is no shame in getting older, or being attributed terms relating to old age, I still see a clear contempt for women who are no longer in their prime. . It’s a way to hurt them and punish them for having prioritized their career or their desires before considering a role as a mother.

Obviously, a woman is not old at 35, and neither is her body. This shame of the body of women who are no longer in their twenties, of still chubby cheeks, and small firm breasts, has no place to be.

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 that begins on their twentieth birthday, then, if we are to believe society, decay invades them until death ensues. The old woman is threatening, she no longer has her beauty for her, seduction and femininity 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 nerve to want to give life, when she should already be thinking of preparing for her funeral.

Admittedly, with the lengthening of studies in particular, and thanks to progress in reproductive medicine, we are moving towards later and later pregnancies, with a higher rate of potential complications. According to INSEE, French mothers today have their first child at the average age of 30.9, compared to 24 in 1974. This 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 in a different way? Having a baby after 35 is now commonplace. Mentalities have evolved since the 1970s, when being pregnant in your late thirties or early forties had a taste of a little shameful transgression, a sign ofsexuality still active at an “advanced age” where others were already grandmothers.

Today, to be 35 is to be young. But physiologically, it is also a first stage in fertility: female fertility drops, the rate of premature delivery increases, the risk of high blood pressure and diabetes during pregnancy too, as well as that of natural cessation of pregnancy, preeclampsia, or the rate of chromosomal abnormality.

The follow-up of a pregnancy after the age of 35 can therefore be slightly different., or even very different depending on the case. Other levels then follow: 40 years, 42 years, 45 years. Beyond that, pregnancies are much rarer since menopause generally occurs around the age of 50. The latest births were recorded in women aged 65 to 70, having had recourse to IVF with oocyte donation.

I also notice that we are not talking about geriatric fatherhood or geriatric fathers, yet men having children late are much more numerous, 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 the babies conceived.

Rather than talking about geriatric pregnancy, even in the case of pregnancies after 40, 45 or 50 years, we can use another “official” term, already less stigmatizing: late pregnancy. Yes, it happens “late” in a woman’s fertile period (between the first menstruation and menopause), no, the pregnant woman is not an old woman.

We could also quite simply speak factually of “pregnancy after 35/40 years”, rather than locking up women and mothers once again in guilt-ridden and judging shackles.


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Photo credit image of one: Pexels / Shvets production

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