What do you do when your children are on the verge of adulthood? Well, you could always do it all over again!
... decades after the first
in 2016, Margarita Louis-Dreyfus, billionaire chair and majority owner of French commodities company Louis Dreyfus, made headlines after announcing she was expecting twin girls at 53 – 18 years after her twin sons (yes, she already had a set of twins!) and 24 years after her first son was born. Her three boys were from her marriage to the late Robert Louis-Dreyfus, who died in 2009. The girls’ father is apparently Philipp Hildebrand, vice president of US asset management company, BlackRock. This time around, Margarita is approaching motherhood somewhat differently. With her boys, she was a stay-athome mom. But since her husband’s death, she’s taken an active – in fact, controlling – interest in his business. And this time round, after her twins were born, she was back in the boardroom in no time at all.
Margarita hasn’t divulged how she conceived, though presumably, considering her age, it was with some degree of medical intervention. However it happened, she was widely criticised. Society has its own perceptions about a women’s fertility and the timing of it, but Margarita is far from unique: a Swiss newspaper reported that 40 women over the age of 50 gave birth in Switzerland in 2015 alone.
Second-round motherhood may be a growing trend, but it’s not just societal disapproval that should be acknowledged – there are also health issues that come with pregnancies at an advanced age. In a study published in PLOS
Medicine journal in May this year, researchers note that the average maternal age continues to rise, particularly among higher-income earners. Although the focus of most research tends to be on the adverse effects on the foetus or infant, such as the increased risk of Down syndrome, the researchers point out that the outcomes for the mother are also less than encouraging. Other than the risk of certain conditions in moms over 39 – some of which include hypertension, pre-eclampsia, heart disease and gestational diabetes – the risk of potentially life-threatening events like renal failure and amniotic fluid embolism increase greatly. And in the over-fifties, the risk of ‘maternal morbidity’ (defined by the World Health Organisation as ‘any health condition attributed to and/ or aggravated by pregnancy and childbirth that has a negative impact on the woman’s wellbeing’) may be higher than that posed to their baby. But not all scientists agree: Dr Rebecca Starck, chair of regional obstetrics and gynaecology at Cleveland Clinic in the US, told
TIME magazine: ‘A healthy 40-year-old can have a much less risky pregnancy than a healthy 28-year-old, especially if she prepares her body for pregnancy with healthy food and exercise. Once pregnant, eating well, gaining the right amount of weight and abstaining from harmful behaviours like smoking also make a big difference.’
So opinion is divided, both in the scientific community and in society in general. But there are many reasons to give motherhood another whirl once the first brood are grown up. We asked two women why they decided to do it, if indeed it was an active decision.
‘A healthy 40-year-old can have a much less risky pregnancy than a healthy 28-year-old, especially if she prepares her body for pregnancy with healthy food and exercise.’