Older moms are the new normal. Maritimer Meagan Campbell highlights recent Statistics Canada findings that claim that “for the first time in recorded Canadian history, mothers over 40 are officially having more kids than teens are.” While this may come as a shock to many, Demographers have allegedly been anticipating this trend since its gradual emergence in 1974.
In the medical community, women who have children over the age of 40 have been dubbed “mothers of advanced maternal age,” and their pregnancies are often referred to as “geriatric.” Many, including Elizabeth Gregory, a professor at the University of Houston, attribute this cultural and medical shift towards delayed motherhood to that of new technologies, wherein women can control their fertility in ways which they could not have before. Along with medical innovations increasing delayed parenthood, social factors too play an important role, as our society has become increasingly accepting of women’s choice to delay having children, or to choose not to have children at all.
But not only are women choosing to have children later, it seems that teenagers have simultaneously been experiencing a decline in pregnancy rates. A Canadian research report called “Sexuality and U” attributes these trends in teen pregnancy to be reflective of “increasing levels of effective contraceptive use, greater access to reproductive health services, exposure to higher quality sexual health education, and/or a shifting of social norms in a direction that provides greater support for young women’s capacity to exercise reproductive choice.”
It is important to note that while these trends of birth are reflective of a national trend, it must be taken into consideration the vast differences between the statistics seen nation-wide, and their application to areas in which we live. Based on research by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, in Nova Scotia (and in most of Atlantic Canada) we have seen teenage birth/abortion rates rising (by 15.1%) in the period of 2006-2010, whereas in other areas of the nation these rates have been declining considerably. So while in Canada teen pregnancy is in general on the decline, these statistics are not reflective of Nova Scotia or what you may have personally observed or experienced.
In a perfect world, women could have it all, but in reality it often comes down to the choice between having children and establishing a career. While it is now possible for a number of Canadian women to become mothers of advanced maternal age, it cannot be ignored the extreme privilege associated with this phenomenon — as fertility treatments are highly costly, and not available to all. Pregnancies among women over the age of 40 are increasingly seen among women of higher socioeconomic status, who wait until establishing their careers before turning to motherhood, which is a luxury afforded to few.