A new medical report claims men should freeze their sperm from the age of 18 to avoid genetic disorders - and women aren't mentioned once. Hurrah!
If you’re anything like us, we’re feeling pretty exhausted by the daily fertility headlines guilting our ovaries into reproducing, regardless as to whether we’re: a) psychologically ready to have a baby, b) financially able to provide for said baby, c) more crazy talk – keen to focus on our career – what larks, or, d) shock, horror, not interested in ever having one.
With this in mind, today’s headline – urging all young men to freeze their sperm to avoid genetic disorders later on in life – not only made us sigh with relief that women aren’t in the spotlight for 24 hours, it also enforced how much collective pressure women are put under to have a baby ‘before it’s too late’, when men seem to escape any such scaremongering.
So, who’s switching the focus? Bioethicist Kevin Smith, at the School of Science, Engineering and Technology at Abertay University in Dundee. In his paper published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, Smith has called for early sperm banking on the NHS in a bid to reduce possible risks associated with delayed fatherhood.
In it, he argues that men as young as 18 should freeze their sperm, to limit the risk of genetic disorders. He adds that free NHS sperm banking could ‘become the norm’.
It’s not something we often (if ever) read about, but women aren’t the only ones leaving it later until they have children. Men are too. In fact, according to BBC News, ‘the average age of fatherhood in England and Wales has increased from 31 in the early 1990s to 33 now.’
Taking this new statistic on board, Smith has claimed: ‘A trend of later fatherhood will accelerate the accumulation of paternal-origin de novo mutations [genetic causes of disease] in the gene pool, gradually reducing human fitness in the long term. These risks suggest that paternal age is of ethical importance.’
However, his focus on artificial insemination over natural procreation isn’t endorsed by the British Fertility Society who commented today.
Professor Adam Balen, Chair of the British Fertility Society said, ‘This move would provide a very artificial approach to having babies. Procreation should not be taken out of the bedroom and into the test-tube unless there are defined fertility problems.’
He quickly added: ‘There should be a greater focus in the UK on supporting young couples to establish their careers and relationships and be supported in having children at a young age before the natural decline in both female and male fertility.
‘There is a need for better education of youngsters so that they are informed about the implications of delaying starting a family and at the same time improved societal support for working mothers and fathers with better childcare facilities to enable couples to establish careers and families.’
The jury may be out on NHS sperm freezing, but what is certain is that this latest report – and comments from the BFS – have underlined just how important it is to balance the responsibility of fertility and childcare between both women and men if we are ever going to address the inevitable fertility decline in both sexes.
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But enough from us, what do you think? Are you feeling pressured to have children before you’re ready? Do you think men get an easy ride? Tweet/Facebook us your thoughts, we’d love to hear from you.