For decades women have been told there’s an expiration date on their ability to have children, and the age they’re given to accomplish this is frightfully young. Although fertility decline is a biological reality, the facts we have heard for years are seriously skewed.
There is a ton of pressure placed on women to have kids by a certain age. Not only that, we expect women to fit in school, a career, and marriage alongside motherhood, all within a small window of time. That’s an impossible task, especially since the age by which you should pop out a kid is 30—or so we’ve always heard. The stigma of getting pregnant when you’re 30-plus years old is strong. “Elderly primigravida” is the term used for a woman who is pregnant with her first child over the age of 35. Elderly? That seems a little harsh. New information is coming to light to bust this myth, and what people are finding out is life-changing.
Getting to the Truth
Women are presented with all this information supposedly based on current facts and studies. However, the “facts” that support these claims are actually based on information from centuries ago. Psychology professor Jean Twenge explains the issue in an article in The Atlantic: “The widely cited statistic that one in three women ages 35 to 39 will not be pregnant after a year of trying, for instance, is based on an article published in 2004 in the journal Human Reproduction. Rarely mentioned is the source of the data: French birth records from 1670 to 1830. The chance of remaining childless—30 percent—was also calculated based on historical populations.”
The New Normal
The fact is that there are more and more cases of women having children well into—and beyond—their thirties. A study released by the Pew Research Center stated that: “In 1990, teens had a higher share of all births (13%) than did women ages 35 and older (9%). In 2008, the reverse was true—10% of births were to teens, compared with 14% to women ages 35 and older.” Not only does this debunk the myth that women can’t get pregnant after 30, it shows that it is in fact a regular occurrence.
Completely false information spreads like wildfire, while the truth is being left in the dust. The power of withholding facts has a great impact on how women live their lives. We’re meant to believe that for a woman to become pregnant over the age of 35 is nothing short of a miracle. As Twenge wrote in The Atlantic: “Even some studies based on historical birth records are more optimistic than what the press normally reports: One found that, in the days before birth control, 89 percent of 38-year-old women were still fertile. Another concluded that the typical woman was able to get pregnant until somewhere between ages 40 and 45.” This doesn’t mean that people don’t have real struggles and issues with their fertility, but it does mean that we’re better off than we’re meant to believe. For many years women have been wrestling with the idea of “baby panic,” causing them to stress and worry about their priorities—while forcing them to structure their goals within a fictional, and frankly made-up, timeline. Hopefully with this updated information more accessible, women can begin to feel more confident in their own choices.