To examine the desire for a baby “if I want and when I want” through the feminist movement, the reasons why women want to delay the arrival of a baby which require us to better understand the changes that have taken place in society, affecting the desire for a baby, and raising a very specific public health issue, but seen by society as an entitlement, free-choice, a form of liberty. This modification in our behaviour is in turn reflected in the politics of the nation and has become the subject of much controversy in bioethical circles.
Using data from INSEE, 2011–2017 and our experience, we analysed the impact of late pregnancies on fertility, the consequences for the mother and her unborn child, the factors behind the desire for a baby late in life. Age is the enemy of women. Artificial conception (data from the biomedical agency, FIVNAT) cannot offset the effects of age. The birth rate in women aged over 40 has doubled in 20 years, and is growing at an exponential rate, and receiving enormous attention from the media (pregnant celebrities).
The main risk for a woman who decides to wait before thinking about a baby, is to never have a baby at all. The consequences for the mother and the unborn child are not trivial: increased number of miscarriages, chromosomic abnormalities, difficult pregnancies, higher rate of maternal mortality, and for the child, a higher rate of premature births. (Epidemiology of fertility: B Rossin, gynécologie & obstétrique pratique no287, sept 2016, and Procédure de suivi d’une cohorte d’enfant FIV : revue de d’épidémiologie et de santé publique no2, avril 2011, vol 59 pp, 97–106). Why this desire to wait before having a baby? Contraception, serious relationships later in life, studies, career, divorce and remarriage, financial problems (having a baby is expensive, unemployment, housing), leisure time, reduced influence of religion in our western societies, are all factors, in a fast-paced society, time passes without necessarily considering one's biological clock. Being young is the fashion (denial, dreams). We all want to stay young or become young again, and stay in good shape. Our longer life expectancy complicates things still further. In parallel we can see an increase in the number of single individuals and the demand for pregnancy from single women using sperm donation.
What solution can we propose? In the bible, the desire to have a baby was seen as a legitimate desire. Sarah, Abraham's wife, found the ideal solution for the time: “come hither, servant, I will have a baby through you”: surrogate mothers with oocyte donation. Today the solution has to be found by the public authorities in their public health policies, including information, prevention, supported by scientific progress (conservation of oocytes, genetic diagnosis, gamete donation, and in the near future, artificial gametes, scientific or reproductive cloning, ovary rejuvenation.
The desire for pregnancy late is life has difficulty in accepting failure. We turn to science for a solution, and science in turn looks to society. Sexuality could well become destabilised in all this disruption: the sexuality of failure to reproduce, the sexuality of substitution, violated sexuality, desire's role could be totally undermined.
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