Babymaking Science and Feminism: The Ethics Bit

When I first read Katie’s post, I told her it was a) fascinating b) informative c) made me outraged and d) filled me with righteous indignation.  A month later, and it still makes me feel all of these things.  It makes me realise how little I understand the science about my own body, how that lack of information prevents me from making informed choices, and how the media exploits that lack of understanding.  And yes,  of course, that Katie should be Science Tsar in the House of Lords because she’d make everyone in the UK care.     

Come back at 1pm for the Actual Science Bit.  It will blow your mind.  

Over to you, Katie:   

I had an interesting experience recently. While at the British Science Festival, I attended, and wrote-up, a press briefing on reproductive ageing. Afterwards, some papers published some articles, and some people on my Twitter feed got a bit outraged about it.  The comments were that women shouldn’t be told when they SHOULD have kids or even when they SHOULD think about having kids. At first, I totally nodded along, but the truth is that I am a bit torn on this issue. Both the press briefing itself, and the various reactions to it, really got me thinking.

The feminist in me wants to agree with my Twitter feed. My instinctive reaction to the whole thing is “don’t tell me what to do with my womb, you patriarchal ass-hat”. However, the scientist in me can’t stop butting in to ask some questions (my husband can attest that this is a persistent and annoying habit of the scientist in me, especially when we’re watching films). The thing is it is undeniably true that, as women, our reproductive capability decreases as we age. Unlike many of the ways in which women are oppressed, this is not a patriarchal construct. It’s scientific fact. Disappointing, but true.

So where does that leave me as a feminist talking about baby-making? I think there are two issues, really, and one is getting in the way of the other. The first issue, the obstructive one, is about how female reproductive science is reported in the media. The way that women are discussed, spoken about, and spoken to in the media generally IS a patriarchal construct. The antiquated idea that a woman is a wife and a mother, and nothing more, persists in society today: it’s visible everywhere. Women exist to have babies and, in between doing that, please men. We’re bombarded with this message, and it is this embedded notion that comes across in the way that female reproductive issues are discussed in the media. This is why they are incredibly angering from a feminist perspective. To me, though, there is a really important message that is getting lost in amongst the patriarchal bullcrap, and that’s even more of an issue. The message is that information is power, and women deserve to know and understand their bodies.

This raises a wider problem, where IS all the accessible scientific information relating to women’s issues? Seriously. It is so difficult to find real, evidence-based understandable information on female issues like fertility, infertility, pregnancy, what you should and shouldn’t eat in pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, periods, polycystic ovary syndrome, I could go on. In many of these cases, the science is out there, or at least some of it is, but finding it is a long hard slog online, and often involves wading through pages of pseudo-scientific nonsense to find and read original research and assess its validity. No-one is going to do that. People don’t have the time, there is work to do, books to read, films and TV shows to watch, and generally lives to lead out there, not to mention that all the wading through nonsense is depressing. It seems to me highly unlikely that the majority of women have the motivation or the time to delve into the literature searching for evidence-based facts about women’s health issues. Frankly, even if they do, no-one teaches the public at large how to assess the validity of scientific data or results (that’s a rant for another day), so unless they come from a scientific or analytical background, they might still be just as lost even with the data in front of them.

This is wrong. We’re being held hostage by a lack of information. I know, I know, I go on about this a lot, you’re all bored of me, I understand (but I shan’t stop). To really illustrate my point, even I, who spends her spare time loving science, and who believes in knowing how your body works and understanding how it goes wrong, had NO IDEA about my reproductive ageing. I had no idea why I would get less fertile as I get older. I still have no idea about the science behind why I should or shouldn’t eat red meat if and when I become pregnant, and many other things. Until I started writing this piece, I didn’t know the most basic facts about getting pregnant. Turns out that every month a fertile couple in their 20s or early 30s has a 20-25% chance of getting pregnant. It’s shocking to me that I didn’t know that, and that the number is so low. I have always assumed that getting pregnant was relatively easy, judging by how much time and effort I’ve gone to over the years to avoid getting pregnant.

This just illustrates how little I understand my own reproductive capability. And how bizarre is that, given that I’m an extremely nerdy biochemistry geek who loves children and really wants a family one day?

I think this is the key point that the scientists at the British Science Festival were trying to make. Family planning and sex education only teaches girls and women how to AVOID starting a family, and it only teaches us what to do, not how things actually work. This means that many of us don’t understand the science of getting pregnant until we start to try. And sometimes that’s really too late. We have the absolute right to make informed decisions about our reproductive business, and that means that we need to understand how our bodies age so that we can, if we want to, take this information into account.

This is a tricky topic to write about because I absolutely do not want to give the message that anyone SHOULD consider a family at any time in their life. However, given that age-related declining fertility is a fact, I do believe that women have the right to understand how their bodies work and age, and to have this information when they do make decisions about considering a family. If you don’t want kids now, this is not intended to imply that you need to rethink, everyone has the right to make their own decisions. It’s simply that I believe information is power, and to have all the information available puts us in the strongest possible position for making those decisions. It seems wrong to me if women are delaying starting a family without any access to information about the potential effect this might have on their chances of conceiving. If they have access to the information and make a CHOICE to wait because for whatever reason that feels right for them, then that’s excellent. As ever, it is all about choice, and I think making decisions without even the chance to be as well informed as possible seems unfair.  But maybe this is a minority opinion…. I’d be interested to hear what the incredibly wise readers of AOW think about this.

SO, finally, as an exercise in putting my money where my ranting mouth is, I have written another post about the science of reproductive ageing. I can’t really shout about the fact that I think we all deserve to know that information and then not put some effort into trying to share it. Well, I can, but not without being a hypocrite. So, there’s that to look forward to, if you agree with me. If you disagree, then well… it’ll hopefully still be interesting.

You can read more of Katie’s writing over on her (brilliant, accessible, funny, science) blog, The Molecular Circus.   

**Don’t forget to come back at 1pm!!**

Categories: Health, Politics and Feminism
36 interesting thoughts on this

36 Comments

  1. Posted October 30, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    The point of that was to say – girls should absolutely be taught about this stuff!!! And would t it be great if there was some kind of routine scan/screening in early twenties – with smear maybe?

    • Katielase
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      I think it’d be great to have a scan or something in younger years but I think it would have to be optional. People also have the right not to want to know, the important part is that they can know if they want.

      Awesome to hear your story, it’s actually properly empowering!

      KL xx

  2. Posted October 30, 2013 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Well, when pregnant, the reason you shouldn’t eat RAW or undercooked meat is that it is one of the main risk factors for toxoplasmosis (which is potentially harmful for the foetus and can result in miscarriage, stillborn or malformations). You can eat red meat, just make sure it is thoroughly cooked. People generally associate toxoplasmosis with handling cats, but only 1-5 % of cats excrete oocysts. These cats are often young / immunocompromised. So as long as you use gloves and wash your hands when handling the cat litter box, you should be ok. Another risk for Toxoplasmosis is gardening (as soil can also be contaminated with oocysts) or eating unwashed vegetables and fruit.
    There was a study where they found that in France the main way of contracting Toxoplasmosis was through eating steak tartare.
    And of course, pregnant women are naturally immunosuppressed and any infection can be a risk as getting a fever is harmful for the developing foetus, so that is a reason to be extra cautious. (As a germ that your system would normally handle, might not do so while pregnant)

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8712198
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23588632
    http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/toxoplasmosis/biology.html

  3. Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    90% of my reproductive ageing knowledge came from my hub, who used to work for a well -known pregnancy/ovulation test maker. The amount of scientific knowledge he has is startling and he often shares with my female friends and family (embarrassing doesn’t cover this at Christmas with your auntie). That’s pretty wrong, isn’t it? if it weren’t for him I wouldn’t know what I need to know, when and why. Knowledge is key to us living or lives the way we want and I for one can’t wait to come back at. 1pm!

  4. Lexie
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Yay for Katie! An informed choice is totally where it’s at, looking forward to reading all the science!

  5. Fee
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Hooray for KL!

    Triggered by a post pregnancy blood test that was very important apparently but I did not understand, I started monitoring my cycles etc & reading up on certain things and now feel I have a much better idea of what’s going on every month (it had never occurred to me to research it before!).

    I really think we should be taught the importance of just knowing ourselves much earlier – even simple things like keeping a record of periods & understanding the stages of our cycles can make a difference not just for reproduction but for a whole host of other female health issues. Knowledge is power!

  6. rachel JHD
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Fascinating Katie & really strikes a chord. It’s also so applicable to when pregnant & giving birth. How different PCTs use different data & the different thoughts between midwives & Drs. So as a woman over 40 years my PCT didn’t want me to go beyond 40 weeks as research shows my placenta was less good at providing for my baby after this time. The midwives don’t agree, a friend (who is also over 40 years) in an out of London PCT wasn’t given this advice or practice & when I ended up having a long induction all the midwives said it was because I was induced at 40 weeks. We weren’t given the data or the research but also you’re then left with making the decision & possible consequences. A little off topic, fascinating & as my head teacher says when we’re looking at education data – you can often make data tell the story you want. Looking forward to this afternoon.

    • Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

      That’s really interesting Rachel. I find the inconsistent training and policies inthe NHS very scary indeed. A true postcode lottery.

    • Katielase
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

      Interestingly Rachel, one of my closest friends is a midwife currently doing research into the issue you faced. I’ll let you know when I hear what they find out!

      KL x

      • rachel JHD
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

        Oh yes do & please say thank you to your friend for researching into it.

  7. Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Yesssss!

    Katie, I love this post. I did look into the science behind fertility when we were planning for our baby and it left me feeling surprised that anyone was born ever, let alone born healthy and intelligent. The scary stats, as you know, don’t end with the 1 in 4 odds of conception.

    I am going to shove this article under the nose of anyone who tries to use ‘so and so had a baby in her 40s so it can’t be that difficult’ as an argument about why women can (note I’m not saying should, that is totally down to personal choice and circumstances) delay having a family.

    Making babies is an emotionally charged subject. Of course it is. It can call up our deepest primal desires and a scary sense of entitlement over our own bodies, when science tells us that it isn’t so. Science doesn’t care for feelings or emotions.

    Look forward to reading your other post!

  8. Aisling
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    I have pictures of my ovaries and fallopian tubes. Actual taken-by-a-camera photos. CRAZY. I know more about my uterus and reproductive hormones than I do anything else, to be honest – that’s a scary thought. (Except maybe Strictly Come Dancing. I know a lot about that.)

    I’ve always said that knowledge is power and Amy is so, so right – young girls should be taught about their bodies properly, beyond just ‘periods and not getting pregnant accidentally’ which is all I remember from school. And as Amy also said (am a Katie/Amy fangirl today apparently) knowledge is also empowering. Whether it helps you come to terms with something or makes you keep fighting – I know I want Stella to be empowered like that.

    KL, I love you. Which is old news. But I do.

  9. Alison
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    This is brilliant and totally right. We should know what’s going on with our bodies so that we can make informed choices. We are just teenagers when most of us are told/find out about periods and reproduction and sex (yuck!) so how are we meant to hold on to that information years later when all of a sudden it becomes important? I’m embarrassed that despite having PCOS and knowing that it could have an impact on my fertility that I had no idea of my cycle and when I was most fertile when my husband and I decided to try for a baby. All I knew was 35 is the ‘scary age’ when things start to get more difficult but maybe that’s not the case? I’ll definitely be reading at 1pm and bookmarking the page and emailing it to all my friends who are thinking about babies! Thank you Katie – you are very wise!!

  10. Anon
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    My sister lost one of her ovaries due to a large hormonal cyst when she was 32 and is not menopausal at 40. My mum went through the menopause at 38. The doctors think my mother would have had the same cyst but because she had children early it helped. The same hormonal stuff (I know more about the technicalities but this seems enough for here) made her have three miscarriages, and her mum had miscarriages too.

    I am 30, childless and have not been checked for the same risk factors as them as at the moment it is not a time in our lives when trying is possible for a number of reasons, but it means we are realistic and are actually considering adoption as our chance of having children and of providing a family for a child who needs one.

    For my sister finding out she would never be able to have children came as a shock. She never wanted to but finding out that choice did not exist anymore was still painful and hard. I think if and when I am told this I will still find it hard, but knowing that it is likely helps. I do know I need to get checked out in the next 18 months to find out if it is even worth trying for us, or if we just skip that whole thing and I aim to do just that as because you say knowledge is power. There is however a bit of me that is scared they will say “no” and that is putting me off somewhat but I do need to know what is happening with my body with my genetic risk factors and so on. I know that my window is probably smaller than it is for a lot of other people so thanks for this as it means I will be booking that appointment as soon as life is less chaotic.

    • Anon
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

      *now* menopausal at 40 …

  11. Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    This is a great post Katie, I am really looking forward to the 1pm one!

    I found that the book ‘The Impatient Woman’s Guide to Getting Pregnant’ by Jean Twenge helpful when we were trying, because it cut through some of the scary statistics with the science behind them (as Rachel says, you can make data say whatever you want and the media definitely likes a scare story). It also teaches you how to chart your cycle etc without getting obsessive about it. Smartphone apps help (you may already all know this but it was news to me).

    I agree with Katie, we spend so much time obsessing about how *not* to get pregnant that when we decide we want to, it is hard to find objective data and advice. But knowledge is power!

    K x

    • Peabody_Bites
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      I agree that Jean Twenge’s book is really helpful, as is Taking Charge of your Fertility, which taught me a huge amount about my body that I had never known (perhaps I shouldn’t have spent all those biology lessons writing romance novels in instalments…). The other book which I have found extremely useful is Expecting Better by Emily Oster – this has had some bad press in the UK because reviewers have focussed very heavily on the chapter on drinking during pregnancy, but I thought it was valuable. What Oster (who is a microeconomist) has done is go back to the primary research, conduct her own analysis of it, including how representative/valuable the research itself was, and then write a readily comprehensible book explaining the rationale behind much of the advice given to women trying to concieve / in pregnancy. She doesn’t give advice herself, but empowers you to make your own decisions.

      Katielase – terrific post. Knowledge is power.

      • Katielase
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        I’ve heard of Emily Oster’s book and although I have read some very negative reviews and comments, I would like to read it at some point and make up my own mind, properly. Even if her book isn’t perfect, the fact that someone has written a book that attempts to make primary data on fertility/pregnancy etc accessible is, I think, pretty awesome.

        I love knowing the science behind statistics, and I always want to see real data rather than have stats facts quoted at me. Ever since I took a stats module at Uni, I’ve found it hard to trust statistics, once you know how possible it is to manipulate a result that you want from raw data, it really does shake your confidence in what you’re told!

        KL x

  12. Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    I have three thoughts on this. Apologies if they’re a bit blunt or ineloquent, secretly typing at work!:

    I’m not sure that the women are for making babies and staying at home thing is an entirely patriarchal construct. I’m increasingly realising it’s women who judge my decisions. It’s female friends and colleagues who make comments and remarks – I can’t think of a single male comment.

    I completely agree that the information out there about fertility is limited. Ditto the information about pregnancy. And miscarriage. That’s one of my bugbears. However – I think a lot of women choose to ignore or downplay the information that is there. The “well, she had a baby in her 40s, therefore you/I can” could be a kneejerk reaction to most of us not wanting to be told when to have children so that we can reduce the risk of complications. How on earth are we supposed to be aware of our biological clocks, if we have to buy a house/get a job/ find a partner first?

    Also, I don’t think this is just a female issue. For me, it should be about reproduction as a whole. Yes, women are the ones that grow the baby, but it takes two people to get to that stage. I sometimes find the lack of information about men’s health, specifically reproductive and sexual health alarming. So few men – and women – know that male fertility and risk of complications increases with age. Part of me wants to stamp my feet and say that actually, it’s not for women to know, it’s not for us to shoulder the burden and responsibility and the guilt of fertility decline. It’s for both genders to be aware of. I would worry that if the onus was all about educating women on their bodies, we’d just dig ourselves a bigger hole than now.

    Hmm. Maybe I should write my own baby-related post instead of hijacking yours!

    • deltafoxtrotcharlie
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      totes agree with point three, it should be about EVERYONE having more information.

      I think on the first point though, there is a big difference between being judged for the choices you make and the range of choices from which you can select. And its the latter that stems from a patriarchal construct – ie the way in which benefits or maternity leave or anything else is structured/available will influence your available choices about whether to work/not work after having children.

      • Posted October 30, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        Yes that is definately true. The ability to make the choice – like you mention, maternity pay and childcare, and the reaction to the choice if it’s not the social norm, are often very different things. It’s that difference, and the reaction to the latter, that I can’t quite get my head around (which may be a personal thing, related to a whole other rant or post!)

    • Katielase
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      Not at all blunt, amazing comment and I’ll do my best to answer! 

      First, the fact that women make the comments doesn’t mean it isn’t a patriarchal construct. Patriarchy isn’t entirely maintained and promoted by men, our society is a patriarchy, and women judge each other by the standards that they are set by the media and by society. Women are defensive because they’re being told what they should and shouldn’t do and be all the time, and I personally believe that’s where a lot of judgement comes from.

      I think it’s easy to downplay information because it’s easy to say what I initially said “I know people who got pregnant in their 40s, and anyway who are you to be telling me what I should do?”. Not sure that’s a reaction based on reading and truly understanding facts. And to be honest, if people DO choose to downplay the facts, that’s their shout and I’m okay with that. I just want everyone to have ACCESS to trustworthy facts and information, whether they choose to disregard it when they hear it is their choice and their right.

      Finally, reproductive ageing IS a female issue. Fertility and reproduction as a wider issue aren’t limited to women, I agree, but this post was prompted by me learning about reproductive ageing and the facts are that reproductive ageing is a far more serious issue for women than men. I want to stamp my feet too at times, but it’s science. And as someone said above, science doesn’t care about how we feel about shit (except I think she put it more eloquently than me). That said, I believe that men should also have access to all this information and be fully aware and engaged in the conversations, discussions and decisions. The onus isn’t on educating women, the onus is on educating EVERYONE about women’s reproductive ageing. Does that make sense? I don’t mean to imply that women are the only ones who should know this and care, it’s just that in the case of this issue, biologically it affects female bodies more than male ones.

      But you should definitely write your own post, definitely definitely. I don’t disagree with you, I think I just wasn’t clear about what I meant!

      KL x

      • Posted October 30, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        Thanks – I don’t think I was fantastically clear either (that’ll teach me to comment on my coffee break!).
        I think what I was trying to say is that I would worry that if more of a focus was put on researching and discussing women’s female reproductive ageing, then it would reduce the likelihood of male involvement in the discussions – if a couple would like to decide to have children then the man needs to be just as aware. I completely agree that the onus needs to be on everyone so that everyone can at least try and make an informed decision to the best of their abilities.

  13. Leni
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Yep, yep, yep, completely agree with everything KL. The use of stats in the media is so mid-leading and the amount of misinterpreted research of opinion based on inconclusive or small scale studies all over the Internet or reported in the media is mind boggling. I am a Biology teacher and the Sex and Relationship Edication programme co-ordinator at a secondary school in an area the government deem to have higher than acceptable teen pregnancy rates ( based, in my opinion, on minimal and flawed data). I completely agree that young women should be educated properly about their bodies – the girls in my yr10 tutor group were spared no details when they asked questions during my pregnancy and, as long as it is asked respectfully, I will answer any question in Sex Ed sessions. I have always stuck to the notion that my job, as a teacher, is to inform, not influence the girls in my class or SRE workshops. This said, I am still inclined ( although I feel compromised by doing it) to stress the ” you can get pregnant the first time/ standing up/ on your period” and gloss over the ” actually there are approximately 4 days a month when you are likely to get pregnant and only 1 in 4 fertilisation a will be viable” as I do not want any of my girls taking ghost information and using it as their ” informed ” decision to have unprotected sex. The idea that I am cherry picking what information to share with the girls does not sit right with me but I do not see a responsible alternative.

    • Posted October 30, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      You sound like a pretty marvellous teacher to me.

    • Leni
      Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Ghost information?? No idea what that was meant to say!

      • Leni
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        And thankyou Gwen.

    • Posted October 31, 2013 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

      Totally agree with this. It’s all very well making an informed decision when you’re in a position to cope with a baby that you’ll abstain on those all important few days, but I shudder to think how many teens would think ‘it won’t happen to me’ or fall foul of a non-textbook cycle.

  14. deltafoxtrotcharlie
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Brilliant post (as always).

    Its the choice part that is SO IMPORTANT!!

    Being a feminist (to me anyway) means saying ‘I have a choice about when I get pregnant’ rather than ‘I’m a feminist so I’ll wait til I’m forty to even think about having kids and sod what anyone else says’

    (not that that view, or any other, is wrong obvs!)

  15. Posted October 30, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Ahhh KL – you’ve been away from these pages for too long!

    I am reading this post and these comments over and over and to be honest am a little ..what’s the word… blown away (?) by it all.

    I have to admit I am completely (as in head + sand) ignorant about my baby making capabilities, fertility and all that she-bang. For as long as I can remember since when we were lectured every six months at school, separately from the boys about ‘NOT HAVING BABIES’, I’ve spent my entire life trying to avoid getting pregnant. Goodness knows if I actually could get pregnant should we actually try.

    I should really, really educate myself so if anyone has any links etc please feel free to send them to me!

    In the same vein as DFC, I think it’s important that I have a choice not to get pregnant, but is it really a choice when I don’t know all the ins and outs about what if I chose to try for a baby? (sorry, excuse the phrase).

    KL – a thought provoking post for sure! xxx

  16. Yanthé
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    This is so so interesting Katie. It is a subject far from my mind personally, but it is very thought provoking. A friend recently had private fertility tests done (I was quite surprised by how reasonably priced they were) just for piece of mind and said she felt wholly empowered holding the knowledge they gave her. I am also entirely ignorant as to how baby making and pregnancy really works, so looking forward to ‘the science bit’.
    All hail Katielase!

  17. Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    This post is simply fantastic KL, thanks to the wonderful AOW ladies for encouraging this debate. There is so much I could add, but work is crazy today and so many of my points have been made above already. I cannot wait to read the post at 1pm xxx

  18. Kristen
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’m currently in exactly this nightmare no mans land of not understanding why I’m not getting pregnant, not understanding what all these tests they’re giving me are for and unfortunately dealing with some pretty non-helpful doctors.

    I actually work in a very prestigious hospital here in America and previously had felt so lucky to have healthcare provided here. My journey to pregnancy has been nothing but frustration and upset. You get diagnosed with things like PCOS and then exactly as you said, you go to look for information and its impossible to know who or what to believe. I’m intelligent enough to know that I lack the medical knowledge to weed through all the data and research. It also makes me feel a thousand times better that I am not the only woman who got to this point and didn’t actually understand the reproductive process all that well at all.

    Thank you!

  19. Posted October 31, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Great thoughts Katie, I agree, women should be better informed when it comes to fertility. The bit of medical knowledge I have has given me some insight into my own family pre-dispositions. My Mum had her menopause at 42. In fact she fulfilled 2 cliches at once by having my sister at 42 and basically never having another period. We always joke my sister was her ‘last egg’. Her mum also had an early menopause at 40. I’m not sure how much my mum knew about the chances of your fertility following your mums, but she waited to start trying until she was 35 (for various reasons including just not wanting a baby sooner,) and had a miscarriage before me, then spent years, including a second miscarriage, trying to concieve my sister. Of course that was all down to the science you described in this afternoon’s post.

    Miscarriage aside (because that’s a whole other post,) as a result, at the back of my mind for several years now I have known I shouldn’t wait forever. On the basis that fertility dramatically declines over the age of 40 in the average woman, and that if I follow my Mum’s fertility pattern I am roughly 10 years ‘older’ than everyone else on the fertility front, I know I shouldn’t be leaving it forever to have babies. It’s a tough choice but I guess not as tough if you know you ultimately want a family.

    As a Dr, this occasionally comes up and I always revert back to the same statement, if you knew that you wouldn’t be able to conceive in (insert preferred time frame here) years, would you do it now instead? And to any of you with worrying family histories or wanting to discuss things with their GP, we won’t ever send you away for asking. I’d hope you would go away armed with the facts to make a better decision. x

  20. Sophie
    Posted December 1, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    I LOVE that ‘find me a random post’ button. As a newcomer to the site I am happening upon all kinds of gems!!!! I think your opinion will very much depend on whether or not having a family is in your life plan. My husband and I fully intend to have a baby in the future. If our choice was now or never then we’d choose now. At 26 I’m planning to wait a while before starting a family and hopefully when the time comes all will go according to plan but if i knew the option wasn’t there in the future we’d be doing it now. Literally!

  21. fbird
    Posted January 3, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    I’m late to the party too and a newcomer to the blog. Great post Katie; when I read this, it struck such a cord. I got married in May 2013 and we’d like to start a family at “some point in the future.” Just like Sophie, we would want to start earlier if we knew there might be issues. It is so difficult to find the mythical “right time” and the lack of information is astounding.

    It really riles me that society is still so damning about women who have babies in their teens but also women who wait until they are older; as if there is some kind of ideal window in the middle of your 25th year in which you’d be the perfect age (probably the same week that you land that perfect job and decide that you want to travel the world!).

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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image by Lucy Stendall Photography

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