May I judge that you are 27 years old

Jamie Grill

From Andin Tegen

At 35, fertility drops massively - this has been preached to women for decades. Bloss: There is no conclusive proof of this.

When she was in her early twenties, Silvia Wiesner * thought: now or maybe never. She was very young. But she knew the statistics that doctors and experts prayed in advance like a mantra: The probability of becoming pregnant within a month is 20 percent at 20 years of age. At 35 you are only half as fertile. At the age of 40, the chance is halved again. Sentences as sharp as a guillotine. Silvia Wiesner felt as if she had a "gun on her head". Her architecture studies, her desire to travel, her plans to work abroad - all of this faded, was masked by the desire to have children and baby panic. At the age of 22 she had a son, and her daughter was born two years later. She shakes her head as if she still can't understand why she let herself be put under such pressure. "I didn't feel mature enough at all," she says 25 years later, "all this scare tactics just intimidated me - and to top it off, my mother talked into my conscience."

First-time mothers are older

There are numbers that solidify into so-called truths, which in turn reverberate permanently. In the ears of whole generations of people. Because they are often quoted in the media. And all of them somehow deal with something. The fertility statistics are one of them. In some women who want to have children, they let the ticking of the biological clock swell to the peal of a cathedral. These numbers are quoted over and over again. They have made many women insecure and if not shaped their thoughts on careers, relationships and children, then at least influenced them. Silvia Wiesner is an example of how big the baby panic can be at a young age - and how it is fueled.
And our society is good at stoking. Would you like a few examples? In the UK, pregnancy test maker First Response recently funded a campaign depicting 46-year-old TV presenter Kate Garraway as a heavily pregnant 70-year-old with gray hair and wrinkled skin: a shocking warning to women. The moderator wanted to set an example because she believes that women are too picky when looking for a partner and that, among other things, they would miss the right time. But who is the use of this baby panic? The women who want to have children but don't have a suitable partner? The women who would like to have a career and don't even know whether they want to be a mother? Panic is of no use to anyone, it only makes women let themselves be pushed into a corner that they may not even belong in.
Many alarmists misjudge what has long been a fact: women are getting older and older when they have children: in 1975 the average age of first-time mothers in Switzerland was 27 years, today women are on average 31.5 years old when they do becoming a mother for the first time. The reason: Young women in their 20s have fewer and fewer children, but the number of first-time mothers is increasing at 40 plus.
The curve climbs inexorably - so what is fueling the fear? First of all, the fertility statistics: They say that one in three 35- to 40-year-olds will not get pregnant within a year. This number was first published nine years ago in the science journal “Human Reproduction”. However, according to the latest findings, it is precisely these statistics that are completely misquoted! Because they are based on outdated data: namely on French birth records between 1670 and 1830 - a time when there was no electricity, antibiotics, let alone fertility medicine.


31,5 A Swiss woman is years old when she becomes a mother.
1,53 Children gives birth to a woman in the cut.
1559 There were twin births in 2012
20 Percent of babies have unmarried parents.
42435 Boys and
39729 Girls were born in 2012.

Source: Swiss Federal Statistical Office

Good chance for a healthy child

The Hamburg gynecologist Ralph Raben also considers the old data, applied to the present day, no longer adequate. "These statistics have little meaning for a single woman," he says. "Nature does not know these magical limits: 30, 35, 40, 45. We love such numbers because we like to divide the flowing life into sections with caesuras." Raben has long been concerned with the phenomenon of "late pregnancy" and treated many women who still had children when they were over 40. According to him, all pregnant women - regardless of their age - have some risk of something going wrong. But especially today, older women also have a good chance of becoming pregnant and giving birth to healthy children. «Women have to work hard less physically, they also generally have fewer pregnancies and fewer births in their lives. They also have a longer life expectancy because they are healthier on average. " Pregnancy care and, above all, obstetrics have changed and improved a lot. Pregnant women also go to a preventive medical check-up, where dangers can be recognized early and complications avoided. "The chance of staying healthy during pregnancy and childbirth and of giving birth to a healthy baby is considerably greater than it used to be," says the doctor.
According to research by the US psychologist and science author Jean Twenge, there are surprisingly few studies on female fertility that are based on data from women from the 20th century. But the few that exist paint a much more optimistic picture: For example, a study that was published in the journal “Obstetrics & Gynecology” in 2004 and is based on data from 770 contemporary European women. According to this, the fertility of women in their late thirties is different health | Desire to have children and by only four percentage points in their late twenties if they had sex twice a week for a year.

More sex for newlyweds

Or the data in a study by Boston University: Researchers examined 2,820 Danish women during a period of time in which they were trying to get pregnant. Among those who had sex during their fertile days, 78 percent of 35 to 40 year olds became pregnant within a year. There were hardly any more among the 20 to 34-year-olds: 84 percent. The bottom line: The negative effect of biological age has simply been overestimated so far.
But why do we listen more to the numbers we have launched than to the truth, which some experts have known for a long time? Quite simply: Sometimes you just see what is in front of you in black and white. We also pay too much attention to reproductive medicine when it comes to numbers: in artificial insemination, medical professionals rely on extracting as many eggs as possible from the ovaries, as some of them are destroyed during the difficult fertilization process. Younger women's eggs are more responsive to hormonal treatment and doctors can extract them much more easily. 42 percent of women under 35 actually have a child through In Vitro - but only 27 percent of those over 35 and only 12 percent of those over 40. It is precisely these statistics that are quoted in many scientific studies when it is said that fertility generally decreases significantly with age. Only one percent of the children who are born every year in the USA, for example, are the result of artificial insemination.

All this scare tactics intimidated me!

Natural fertility studies are extremely difficult to conduct. Many social and medical prerequisites that existed in the past simply no longer exist today. With the outdated data from the past, one can assume that newlyweds had more sex than those in whom the woman was already 35 and perhaps already the mother of several children. Less sex, fewer children, fewer mouths to feed. The result: fewer births after the 35th birthday. All of this sheds a different light on the statistics. Today it can only be said with certainty that the end of fertility does not have to be reached by the end of 30. With this knowledge, the general baby pressure could soon decrease noticeably.
For Silvia Wiesner these are realizations that she would never have expected: "I believe that I would have been less strict with my children, less unbalanced and less dissatisfied with myself if I had had time to work on my career", she concludes. Your son is now a father himself. Your daughter is studying economy in London. Silvia takes a long drag on her cigarette and leans back in her chair. "Back then," she says, "having children was the right thing to do - I was downright relieved that I had pulled it off."
When she looks back now, she sees it differently. She lives in a 50 square meter apartment on the edge of a large housing estate. The relationship broke up when their daughter was little because the partners never had time to really get to know each other. As long as she can remember, Silvia Wiesner has looked after her children, given them an education and a degree. In order to earn money, she did office work for friends, and for a time she lived on welfare.
For many, pregnancy in their early 20s is just the ticket. You have found the right partner, you may enjoy financial support and have relatives on site who can look after the child in an emergency. In this way, some women can finish their training on the side and develop professionally. But not many have these requirements. Silvia Wiesner laughs: "If I had really made a career, I would have been involved in projects all over the world - there would hardly have been time for a family."

I would have given myself more time.

Wiesner's apartment is bright and friendly, she decorated it with flowers and plants, and painted the walls bright yellow. The studied mother has many friends. But whenever she meets women who have a job that they are really proud of, her self-confidence gets a kink. "I am now 45 years old, it is now too late to start my career." Silvia looks out of the window over the high-rise buildings in her estate, which are lined up like dominoes. "Sometimes I think: What a strange hormonal surge, coupled with a baby panic supported by the media, must have overwhelmed me at the time."

Profession and Motherhood

Lena Zimmermann was 42 when her daughter was born. A risk birth, said the doctors. "But that was clear to me, it was held up against you long and broad - in the media, by the doctors," says the auditor. According to her gynecologist and mother, the fact that she became pregnant naturally at all bordered on a miracle. "My mother looked at me like I was telling a bad joke," recalls the business administration graduate.
Zimmermann remembers the years when she only devoted herself to her profession. "In between I almost had a stubborn anti-attitude when it comes to having children - then not, I thought - I wanted to live my dream and felt downright blackmailed by the biological clock."
Making a career and being a mother - it will be years, maybe decades, until the social conditions for this combination have changed in such a way that coexistence is possible. In spite of this, women are usually not prevented from pursuing their professional path, even with the consequence that they never become mothers. The vicious cycle: This attitude leads to a worldwide decline in the birth rate, which sometimes even politicians want to counter with desperate methods. In Singapore, the city-state with the lowest birth rate in the world, the government is doing all it can to stimulate the reproduction of its population. For example with modified fairy tales that are distributed on colorful leaflets at universities: the one with the goose that laid golden eggs - but only for a while, because then their “egg production machine got rusty and old”. Or Alice in Wonderland, the party girl whose T-shirt says “You only live once”. The moral: soon it will be too late and she has missed her chance to have a family, the “normal” life.
When Lena Zimmermann did think of motherhood, she considered the option of adopting a child or being artificially fertilized. "But even there everyone saw black," says the mother of a daughter who is now ten years old. "Even artificial insemination should hardly work in the late 30s."

But in fact, a lot has happened in reproductive medicine as well. Women today have the option of freezing their own eggs. This new technology is called “social freezing”. Some see it as a new form of self-determination, others see it as an ethically unjustifiable interference with nature: a woman has to put at least 20 healthy egg cells on hold in order to have a good chance of conceiving later. The unfertilized egg cells are frozen in liquid nitrogen at minus 196 degrees in a metal barrel. They can be thawed at any time, artificially fertilized and then inserted into the uterus - at the age of 40, 45, 50 years. However, only very young hormone-treated women between the ages of 20 and 30 can get at least 20 healthy egg cells within a treatment cycle. At 40, doctors recommend stopping using this procedure. Beyond all morals, the fact remains: Today a woman with the strong desire to have children, such as Silvia Wiesner had, could freeze her egg cells and continue her career.
Even for women like Lena Zimmermann, who are already too old for “social freezing”, more and more opportunities are opening up for an artificially induced pregnancy. Precisely because women and men become parents later today, doctors have been trying for a long time to improve their chances of success: They simply select only viable embryos. Such a selection is still banned in Germany, but highly effective genetic screening methods are now ready for use in other European countries and in the USA. Genome analyzes with which the development possibilities of freshly produced seedlings can be checked. For example, the Oxford In Vitro Center, the Institute of Reproductive Sciences, can promise a large number of couples a child from the very first attempt. The woman's age has almost no influence on her desire to have children, and the risk of a miscarriage is at least halved.

‹Social Freezing›: Freeze egg cells - and use them later.

Less fear, more children

Katja Annen always wanted to have children, but didn’t miss out on the “career-critical years between 30 and 40”. She also knew that at some point it might no longer work. "Perhaps this sword of Damocles was so present that at the age of 40 I just really didn't feel like it anymore," says the entrepreneur. "The desire to have children has really withered in me over the years." She doesn't know whether it was because too much pressure was built up inside her or because her body signaled her at some point: Now you have no more strength. All she knows is that her heart doesn't open like it used to when she saw little children. "It sounds terrible, but when I was in my early 40s I thought: man, would that be exhausting now, the sleepless nights, the double burden - I just don't want to anymore." Today she and her husband are happy with the decision. You travel a lot, have rebuilt an old finca and spend a lot of time with relatives and friends. Katja Annens “reluctance” is no accident. Because in order to raise a child at her age, of course, you also need one thing: strength. A component that even reproductive medicine cannot conjure up.
Viresha Bloemeke looks after many women in the first few weeks after giving birth. The Hamburg midwife, body and trauma therapist knows the exhaustion in childbed in late mothers. «You feel that the body has already left something behind. The lack of sleep has to do with the substance. Previously an easy life as a double income earner: traveling, clothes, going out. Now someone has to put their job on hold and sit at home with the child. " Nevertheless, she usually feels that relationships with older people are more stable. These couples have a good self-assessment and can judge beforehand how things will go on with their new life. “It is not age,” says Raben, “but the demands of getting a grip on life as before, which can hinder you. Although plans are made during pregnancy as to how everything should be organized, suddenly there is chaos that one previously experienced uncomprehendingly with the eternally exhausted girlfriends. " Raben sees another advantage of having children late in the fact that with older parents the probability increases that both parents will stay together. «Stability is an important factor.Children do not care whether their mother was late-giving birth - the main thing is that their parents are there for them. "
Every woman can assess for herself what strength reserves she has to raise a child. One will no longer dare to do it, the other cannot imagine anything better than investing all of their energy in the little ones. But thanks to medical advances, the question of fertility has less and less to do with all of these considerations. And perhaps this progress does not lead to the selfish childless career emancas, as skeptics and moralists always preach, but to more children. Women like Lena Zimmermann clearly realize how much the baby panic has influenced them: “It would probably have been a severe blow for me emotionally if it hadn't worked out at all,” she says, “if I had known that there were so many There are still opportunities at 40, I would never have developed such an anti-attitude towards the topic of having children. "

Christine Biermann and Ralph Raben: A child at 40? Advantages and disadvantages of late pregnancy, Kreuz Verlag.