The age of mothers at the time of childbirth has been increasing steadily since the early 1980s.
BIRTH – A child, but as late as possible. According to’“national perinatal survey 2021”, carried out every five years since 1995, mothers are always older at the time of giving birth. A trend that has been observed for several decades. The results of this new edition come from a field survey carried out in March 2021, during the 3rd wave of Covid-19, which enabled data to be collected on 13,631 births from 13,404 women. The survey, published this Thursday, October 6, was coordinated by Inserm and Public Health France.
The proportion of women aged 35 to 39 at the time of delivery and those aged 40 and over have increased since 2016 (respectively 19.1% in 2021 compared to 17.2% in 2016, and 5.4% in 2021 against 3.9%). This trend is worrying because we know that the risks for the mother and the child increase significantly with the age of women.
It is also part of a long-term trend, since the age of mothers at the time of childbirth has been increasing continuously since the beginning of the 1980s. The survey cites INSEE data which show that average age of mothers (for live births) has increased from 26.5 years in 1977 to 30.9 years in 2021.
Another trend judged “concerning” by the study: the increase in overweight and obesity of future mothers. In 2021, 23% of women surveyed were overweight, compared to 19.9% in 2016 and more than 14% were obese in 2021 compared to 11.8% in 2016.
16.7% of them present depressive symptoms
For the first time since the launch of this five-year survey, a two-month follow-up has made it possible to assess the mental health of women. However, they are 16.7% to present major depressive symptoms two months after childbirth. Furthermore, 15.5% of mothers had a difficult or very difficult experience of their pregnancy and 11.7% had a bad or very bad experience of their childbirth.
Some lessons from the survey are nevertheless positive. The level of education, for example, continues to increase: the proportion of pregnant women who have studied beyond the baccalaureate rose from 42.8% in 2003 to 52.1% in 2010 then 55.4% in 2016 and 59.4% in 2021.
Regarding addictions, the situation is improving. The proportion of women declaring tobacco consumption in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy is decreasing (12.2% in 2021 versus 16.3% in 2016), as is that of women declaring cannabis use during pregnancy (1.1% versus 2.1%).
The rate of episiotomy – incision to increase the opening of the vagina during childbirth – already in a decreasing phase for several decades, has fallen sharply, from 20.1% in 2016 to 8.3% in 2021, in accordance with national recommendations.
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