One of the UK’s leading fertility experts, Geeta Nargund, has advised women to start trying for kids before 30. But before you start shaking your fists and/or staring despondently at the bit where your womb is, is what she’s saying that bad?
As a rule of feminist thumb, as soon as anybody starts telling us what to do with our bodies and when, it’s time to leave the room and scream into a pillow. So when we heard consultant gynecologist and professor Geeta Nargund had written a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, asking for teenagers to be taught about the dangers of delaying parenthood past 30, we were halfway out the door – stuffing our duvets into our mouths as we went.
“Ideally, if a woman is ready for a child, she should start trying by the time she is 30,” Geeta wrote in the letter, which was leaked online. “She should consider having a child early because as a woman gets older, her fertility declines sharply.”
Yep. If we knew where to find our bodyclocks, this was the moment when we’d rip them out and jump up and down on them. And we weren’t alone. Within hours of the letter being made public, Geeta was inundated with criticism. Even the British Pregnancy Advisory Service jumped in – tweeting: [sic] “‘Have a baby by the time your thirty or else’ messaging is neither helpful to women nor based in scientific evidence re: age & fertility” – as we cheered along from the sidelines.
But upon a second read of the letter, it looks like Geeta isn’t actually trying to force parenthood on unprepared 20somethings at all. She’s not saying we have to have kids before 30. She’s not saying we’re supposed to leave our careers to simmer away on the backburner while we download one of those free ovulation apps and lie on our beds with our legs up against the wall and a turkey baster in hand. She’s not actually telling us to buy a turkey baster at all.
Instead, she’s attempting to raise awareness of a fertility crisis facing the NHS. One that sees over 50,000 women resorting to IVF in an attempt to get pregnant every year. That IVF costing £5000 per cycle, and requiring – on average – four cycles to be success. And when you consider the fact that the NHS pays for 41 per cent of all fertility treatments, that’s a big financial deal for both us and them.
“I have witnessed all too often the shock and agony on the faces of women who realize they have left it too late to start a family,” Geeta writes. “For so many, this news comes as a genuine surprise and the sense of devastation and regret can be overwhelming. And so often the cry will be ‘Why did no one warn me about this?’ ”
So while Geeta isn’t insisting that we have kids “before 30 or else”, she is letting us know that things after 30 might be more difficult. And although that’s horrible to hear, is it all that surprising?