The average age of women giving birth in Switzerland now hovers around 32. The number of over 35s having children is also growing. As Mother’s Day is celebrated in Switzerland, we look at the shifting age at which women are deciding to give birth.
“Mothers would be better served by a society which places more value on the family than an unconvincing ceremonial day.” This is the verdict of online portal Swissmomexternal link, which recently presented a list of the argumentsexternal link for and against Mother’s Day.
This sentiment will doubtless be shared by many women who know how difficult it is to balance a career with motherhood in a country with minimal out-of-home care and where childcare is the most expensive in the world.
The majority of women and their partners would like to have at least two children, according to a report by the Federal Statistical Office, Families in Switzerlandexternal link.
A fertility rate of 2.1 children per woman is needed to renew the Swiss population. But the reality looks a bit different: with little over 85,000 babies being born annually, the current fertility rate stands at 1.54 children per woman.
Opting to wait
A major reason for this is that in Switzerland, as in other countries, women are deciding to have children later and later. The average age of those having their first baby has gone up from 25 in 1971 to 30.7 in 2015.
If overall births are included (second child, third child, and so on) the average age of mothers in Switzerland rises to 31.8. And though the numbers of births for women between the ages of 30 and 34 has remained stable since the year 2000, they have risen for those over 35.
Olivier Irion, head of the Gynaecology and Obstetrics department of Geneva University Hospitals, told swissinfo.ch that becoming pregnant at the age of 32 is no longer considered a risk in Switzerland. “It is really from the age of 38 or 40 that associated risks can arise,” the professor said.
In 2012, more than 5,000 women aged 40 or above gave birth in Switzerland, five times more than at the beginning of the 1980s. During this same period, the number of multiple births doubled from 10 to 20 per 1,000 women, according to Nicole Fournet and Olivier Irion in their 2015 articleexternal link Tracking pregnancy in women over 40, which was published in the Revue Médicale Suisse journal.
The increased rate of infertility that comes with age is encouraging women to seek medically assisted reproduction. In 2014 more than 6,000 women, average age 36, had in vitro fertilisation (IVF) treatment which is permitted in Switzerland. This resulted in almost 2,000 births.
But even IVF cannot mitigate the big drop in fertility levels occurring around the age of 42, which is why growing numbers of women are also opting to travel abroad for egg donation. This practice is currently prohibited in Switzerland.
These cases, however, which mostly involve multiple births, run the risk of various complications. Article author Fournet’s advice: it is better to become a mother at an age when nature encourages it.
Translated by Domhnall O'Sullivan. swissinfo.ch