Kirstie Allsopp speaks out on fertility

I have a new-found respect for TV presenter Kirstie Allsopp for speaking out about fertility and the biological clock. If you haven’t heard about it, you can read her comments in an interview in the Telegraph here, but to summarise she said she thought we needed to be more honest about the biological clock. She suggested that as we all lived much longer, it was perhaps time to think differently about the order in which we did things and that having children and settling down earlier, and going to university later might be a better way.

Inevitably, she’s come in for a lot of criticism – often from people who haven’t read what she actually said and from those who see her thoughts as some kind of reactionary anti-feminist stance. In fact, what she’s suggesting is far from reactionary or anti-feminist.  It’s actually quite radical, and I think she may be right.

She went on to explain herself very clearly in this debate on Newsnight, where she spelled out that she wasn’t just talking about young women thinking differently, but about young men thinking differently too. We may live longer, but the average age of the menopause hasn’t changed and if people want to have families, it’s both men and women who need to think carefully about when they do this.

We don’t want to scare young women, to make them limit their choices or to prevent them achieving their full potential – but doing things in a different order doesn’t have to be limiting. As a society we tend to have rather negative and judgmental views of women who have children very early, but the handful of women I know who had children in their late teens and early twenties have all gone on to have very successful and fulfilling careers – and are getting on with the rest of their lives post-children at a time when many of their contemporaries are finding themselves on the fertility treadmill.  Maybe it’s time we did rethink the way we do things?

You may not think Kirstie is right, and of course it isn’t always going to be right to have children earlier for all kinds of reasons – but hats off to her for being brave enough to speak out and raise the issue.

2 thoughts on “Kirstie Allsopp speaks out on fertility

  1. Our two children were born at 39 and 42, and I can see the benefits you describe. Also in theory planned childbearing earlier in life might not affect numbers of births. But isn’t there a risk of unintended consequence: a higher birth rate? There are already more births than deaths each year here: ONS final data for 2011 in England and Wales 723,913 live births and 484,367 deaths. Looking from an ecological angle the UK already overshoots its biocapacity (GFN Global Footprint Network).

    • I’m not convinced we’re going to see such a sea change in people having children early that it’s going to affect our population rate. The UK fertility rate falls below the population replacement rate of 2.1 anyway – we have an ageing population.

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