Skip to Content

Redefining Motherhood: The Shift Towards Later Pregnancy in Today’s Economy

The Evolution of the Term “Geriatric Pregnancy”

In the medical community, women over 35 who become pregnant have historically been labeled as having a “geriatric pregnancy,” a term that many, including experts like Naomi Cahn—a professor of family law at the University of Virginia and George Washington University—find outdated and misleading. Cahn argues that turning 35 does not suddenly enhance pregnancy risks as sharply as the term suggests. This outdated label paints an unnecessary picture of urgency and pressure, contrasting sharply with the reality that nearly 20% of all pregnancies in the U.S. occur in this age group, including many first-time pregnancies.

Delayed Motherhood: A Growing Trend

The trend of women choosing to delay motherhood until achieving greater financial or emotional stability is on the rise, with a staggering 900% increase over the past five decades. Naomi Cahn’s personal journey mirrors this trend; she envisioned motherhood in her early 20s but waited until securing a stable career as a law professor. By the time she welcomed her first child through in vitro fertilization (IVF) in her mid-30s, she felt confident in her ability to provide and nurture, thanks to her established professional life and the security it brought.

Economic Factors Influencing the Timing of Pregnancy

Today, more women are obtaining higher education and prioritizing financial security before starting families, a shift that is reflected in the increasing birth rates among women over 35. This delay is often due to the significant economic benefits of securing advanced education and a stable career, which can provide a more secure environment for raising children. The challenges younger women face in the workforce, such as wage disparities and limited career progression, further contribute to the decision to postpone motherhood. Additionally, the term “geriatric pregnancy” has been largely replaced by “advanced maternal age” to better reflect the nuanced risks associated with later pregnancies, such as increased chances of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure.

These shifts underscore a broader societal change where personal readiness and financial stability are becoming more central to decisions about when to start a family. This trend is not just about personal choice but about adapting to new economic realities, where the benefits of delayed parenthood can outweigh the traditional expectations of earlier family planning. As such, women like Cahn are challenging old norms and paving the way for future generations to think differently about the timing of motherhood.