French President Emmanuel Macron has come under criticism lately for his remarks on fertility and childbirth.
“Present me the woman who decided, being perfectly educated, to have seven, eight or nine children,” Macron challenged, implying that no woman in her right mind would choose to have so many.
I don’t believe the President of France was intentionally trying to slight smart mothers of large families; I think rather he is prejudiced and ill-informed.
Presiding as he does over a first-world country where the average household size is only 2.3 people, Macron may assume families with upwards of four or five times that many members are backward or benighted.
That is simply untrue.
Thanks to #postcardsforMacron, though, he has now learned that highly-educated women with mega-sized families do exist.
Those Instagram posts have beautifully demonstrated an important point: Many smart women consciously choose to have a lot of children. I’d like to take the conversation one step further and show that having a lot of children is one of the best choices a smart woman can make.
I’ve written before about the unexpected blessings of big-family living. Today, let’s discuss the scientific advantages to having many times the average number of children.
9 Science-Backed Benefits to Birthing a Big Family
Note: To view a summary of the following information in infographic form, please scroll to the bottom of this post.
A woman’s body changes in significant ways each time she carries a baby, and I’m not just talking about her bulging belly. Thanks to a process called microchimerism, being pregnant actually leads to the repair of damaged tissues in mother’s bodies on a cellular level. That’s like having a full-body makeover — from the inside out — every time you’re expecting!
Birthing lots of babies has been linked with a lower maternal incidence of dementia. While the relationship may not be causal in nature, studies suggest that women who spend more of their lives pregnant are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s (researchers have noted a 5.5% decrease in risk per month of pregnancy).
Having a large family is protective of your marriage. Statistically speaking, the greater the number of children, the lower the risk of divorce. Not only is the presence of young children in the home one of the strongest predictors of marital stability, but sociologists tell us that the older a couple is when their last child leaves home, the better chance their marriage will survive.
[To view the scientific advantages to prioritizing sex in marriage, follow this link.]
While hormonal contraceptive use and abortion increases a woman’s risk for breast cancer, having babies — and breastfeeding them — lowers the incidence significantly. Researchers report that for every year a woman spends breastfeeding, her risk of breast cancer drops by 4.3%. (After having nursed a dozen babies for nearly two years apiece, my own chance of getting breast cancer is virtually non-existent.)
[To view more health risks associated with hormonal contraceptive use, click here.]
In addition to decreased incidence of breast cancer, studies have shown that “women who breastfeed multiple children for a combined total of 31 months or more reduce their risk of ovarian cancer by 91%.” Pregnancy is protective, too: Research suggests that women who give birth to 10 or more children enjoy a reduced risk of ovarian and endometrial cancers, as well.
[To read 10 things to do while breastfeeding, follow this link.]
Deceleration of Aging
The number of children a woman bears slows down the rate at which her body ages. According to researchers, the more surviving children she births, the longer her telomeres (the protective endcaps on DNA strands associated with aging). Whether or not her apparent age is affected, bearing children does benefit a mother’s biological age.
Both pregnancy and breastfeeding can prevent ovulation, leading to a greater stock of follicles later in life and affecting the timing of menopause. The more pregnancies a woman sustains and the more babies she breastfeeds, the longer the onset of menopause (and all its attendant changes and challenges) may be delayed.
Multiple studies have shown that married women who have three, four, or five or more children enjoy a significantly lower mortality rate than those with two or fewer. In other words, having more children is associated with living a longer life. “In no instance was higher parity significantly associated with higher mortality risk.”
Decreased fertility and dwindling birthrates portend deeply troubling problems for societies world-wide, including labor shortages, top-heavy populations, and economic collapse. That’s why countries like Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, and even France have begun paying couples to procreate. Smart women who choose to have a lot of children are simply ahead of that curve.
Maybe President Macron regrets making hasty and unwarranted assumptions about the educational credentials of mothers with large families. Perhaps he remains unconvinced and still believes we must have a loose screw to willingly do what we do.
Personally, I’m grateful for Macron’s overgeneralizing remark — or, at least, I’m glad for the public response to it. I love the fact that the vast majority of mothers who took issue with the President’s comment did so in such a gracious and respectful way.
[For tips on responding positively to negative comments on family size, click here.]
It has been fun to scroll through the pictures of all their huge and happy families. And I’ve been encouraged to glimpse a sampling of all the brilliant women out there who’ve chosen to devote their time, talents, and energy to raising the next generation. Well done, Mamas. Keep up the good work!