The Telegraph returns to the subject of later motherhood this week, following on from the suggestion by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service that an increase in abortions amongst women of 35 and above was due to “scaremongering” about the biological clock which was leading women to assume that they couldn’t possibly be fertile in their late thirties and forties. The article cited the cases of women who’d happily and easily had children in their forties, and suggested that reduced fertility might have more to do with how healthy you are than your age. It even concluded with the point that there might be a “sexist agenda” in telling women that they needed to have children earlier.
You don’t have to have spent much time working in the world of infertility to know that this is one side of a very complex picture. Yes, of course there are plenty of women who can get pregnant very easily in their late thirties and early forties- but there are also many others who can’t and who feel angry that they were not made aware of the limited options that fertility treatment could provide. I talk to so many women who wish they’d started trying for children earlier and who are passionate about the need to educate women about the biological clock.
I’m aware, of course, that this is just one other side of the complex picture, but we do need to get the balance right – we don’t want to scare women unnecessarily, but unfortunately there are many women going to fertility clinics for the first time in their forties only to discover that despite feeling young and being healthy, their ovaries are no longer in top shape for conception.
I don’t want women to start trying to have children earlier because I have a sexist agenda – I want them to be aware that if they leave it until later, fertility treatment can’t wave a magic wand. Being fit and healthy is not going to stop the biological clock, the fact that you are still having periods in your forties doesn’t mean that you are still fertile and female fertility declines far more rapidly than male fertility. It’s unfair, it’s annoying, it’s frustrating – but talking about this isn’t being sexist, it’s just being honest.