Last week, a top NHS gynaecologist warned that women hoping to conceive should try for a baby before reaching 30 to stop a ‘fertility time bomb’.
Citing the stat that one in six couples struggling to conceive, Professor Geeta Nargund wrote, ‘Ideally, if a woman is ready for a child, she should start trying by the time she is 30. She should consider having a child early because as a woman gets older, her fertility declines sharply.’
Image: Solange Knowles gave birth to her son Daniel Julez J. Smith, Jr when she was 18 | Getty
In fairness, I don’t think Nargund was trying to be particularly provocative or judgemental here (her comments were made in a letter that was leaked) but the media’s coverage of the story was predictably catastrophic and fraught with panic about women’s plummeting fertility! And barren wombs!
Having had my first baby last year at the age of 30, I was very much at the tipping point in terms of the early enough/too late argument. In fact, according to Professor Nargund, I got there just in the nick of time. Phew! I do find it funny that when my Mum had her first baby, my brother, in 1981, the midwife referred to her as an ‘elderly primigravida’ (woman pregnant for the first time) and she was only 27. So maybe the viewpoint hasn’t got worse, it’s just got louder.
I was lucky enough to get pregnant relatively quickly, something I never take for granted, but I could have done without the extra pressure that came from this kind of alarmist coverage. No woman is immune to the barrage of scaremongering and judgement that circulates in the media and society as a whole. It’s relentless. As with so many issues where women are the subject of scrutiny – body, sex, careers, fashion, the list goes on – this is surely a question of choice. If a woman wants to wait to have children to pursue her career or until she has more money or because she damn well feels like it, then let her.
Studies have shown that the quality of sperm decreases at the age of 35 but no one’s shouting about that from the rooftops or bullying men into having kids before they’re good and ready.
And there’s more. Amazingly, Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University discovered that the scary stat about one in three women over the age of 35 not conceiving after a year of trying is based on ludicrously archaic research. ‘The data on which that statistic is based is from 1700s France. They put together all these church birth records and then came up with these statistics about how likely it was [someone would] get pregnant after certain ages.’ Shocking, right?
Here’s the thing. Pestering never made anyone want to do anything. Yes, the information should be out there (and up to date, please!) and any big decision should always be an informed one but badgering isn’t the answer.
Whether we have a baby at 20, 30, 40 or not at all, it’s a matter of personal preference. It’s really that simple.