Supermodel Naomi Campbell, 50, welcomed a baby girl on Instagram
on Tuesday. “A beautiful little blessing has chosen me to be her mother,” she wrote. “So honored to have this gentle soul in my life, there are no words to describe the lifelong bond that I now share with you my angel. There is no greater love.” (Campbell did not give more details on her journey to motherhood.)
Her announcement is part of a growing trend. More women are choosing to have children later in life, whether naturally or by surrogacy. Three years ago, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, then aged 50, the Democratic senator from Illinois, gave birth to a baby girl. She was the first serving U.S. senator to have a baby. “I’m hardly alone or unique as a working parent,” she said at the time. Pop singer Janet Jackson gave birth at age 50 in 2017, and TV anchor Hoda Kotb became a mom at age 52.
More women are choosing to have children later in life, whether naturally or by surrogacy, although the fertility rate has been falling for a decade.
The share of American women at the end of their childbearing years who have ever given birth is higher than it has been a decade earlier, reversing a near 40-year trend where fewer women in that age group were having babies, according to the Pew Research Center, a think tank in Washington, D.C.,
“Not only are women more likely to be mothers than in the past, but they are having more children,” the report, which analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data, found. In 2016, mothers at the end of their childbearing years had about 2.42 children, compared with a low of 2.31 in 2008. And among those who are mothers, family size has actually increased.
“The Great Recession intensified this shift toward later motherhood, which has been driven in the longer term by increases in educational attainment and women’s labor force participation, as well as delays in marriage,” the Pew report found. “Given these social and cultural shifts, it seems likely that the postponement of childbearing will continue.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported a gradual increase in births for women in their 40s and early 50s over the last decade. Older mothers have higher rates of C-sections due to complications, low birth weight and stillborn babies. For those who carry their own child, the chances of having a baby with Down Syndrome is 1 in 100 at 40. At 45, it’s 1 in 30.
Denmark and all other highly industrialized nations have some form of countrywide paid parental leave in effect, but the U.S. has no such federal law.
While more older women are choosing to become parents, U.S. birth and fertility rates in 2019 fell for the sixth year running, reaching the lowest levels since the late 1970s, according to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The researchers did not cite the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for the decline.
Fertility has, in fact, been on a downward trajectory in the U.S. for the last half century. There are approximately 1.78 births per woman in the U.S., down from 2.12 births per woman in 2007, but up from a low of 1.73 births per woman in 1976. However, those figures pale in comparison to 1960 when there were 3.65 births per woman.
Why the decline? Many families require two paychecks and must postpone buying a house — and starting a family — while they save for a down payment. Other women are delaying having a family to focus on their career and education. Child care remains one of the biggest household expenses, according to Child Care Aware of America, a nonprofit group in Arlington, Va.
What’s more, Denmark and all other highly industrialized nations have some form of countrywide paid parental leave in effect, but the U.S. has no such federal law. As of 2021, five states have paid-leave laws in effect and Washington D.C.’s paid family and medical leave benefits start in July. Federal workers receive 12 weeks of paid leave.
Denmark’s paid parental leave laws give mothers four weeks of wage replacement before birth and 14 weeks after that. They may also extend their parental leave for 14 weeks if either the child or parent becomes ill. They then have an additional 32 weeks, which they can split with the father, though past research showed mothers typically took most of the time.
Congratulations were, meanwhile, pouring in for Campbell on Tuesday. Marc Jacobs, the veteran designer who has worked with the supermodel since the 1990s, responded to her Instagram post: “Oh my God!!!!! Today is the day?? How absolutely incredible. How lucky she is and how lucky you are! What a wonderful Mother you will be. Blessings all around.”