Amanda Platell said: ‘As well-intentioned as it is, it’s quite condescending to suggest’
by Amanda Platell
Only a male scientist could come up with such an absurd proposition as warnings on condoms and pill packs to remind women to “don’t leave it too late” to have children.
Men and women generally use condoms for the exact reason they don’t want a baby — not just then, but maybe never with him or her. It’s hardly the time to lecture women about their responsibility for their future fertility.
And what would fertility expert Professor Adam Balen, who came up with this idea, represent the cigarette-style warnings – a woman in her late thirties sobbing?
When I was a younger woman, my generation did a great disservice to a medical institution that didn’t warn us about the viability of our eggs, and that there was a real risk that if we didn’t have a child before we were 40, maybe we will never be mothers.
The superwoman generation of the 1980s and 1990s thought we could have it all, whenever we wanted it. We had no idea that our eggs already had an expiration date.
After trying to conceive “naturally” in my 30s, I finally went to the Lister clinic for help. The expert said that, even with IVF, my chances of conceiving at age 40 were just slightly higher than winning the EuroMillions.
I had no idea I left it too late. It was heartbreaking. While I respect any woman who chooses to go the donor egg route, it wasn’t for me and so, tragically, not for motherhood either.
Fortunately, it is so different now: girls and women receive information about their bodies. Most girls I know start taking the pill in their teens, whether their mother knows or not, because that’s when they become sexually active. By this time, they have learned at home and at school about nature’s cruel trick that men can have children in their 80s, while women cannot.
So, as well-intentioned as it is, it’s quite condescending of the Prof to suggest that you impose that duty of care on an advertising agency coming up with a slogan.
And do women really need to be reminded on a daily basis, and every time they make love to someone they adore (or make a mistake with someone they don’t), that they better get going before it’s too late? The bedroom is certainly the only place where they can expect to be free from lectures and enjoy their sexuality without scaring them.
However, Melanie McDonagh said: ‘Nature doesn’t care about your career plans’
by Melanie McDonagh
Should there be a warning to contraceptives that the outcome they should avoid — a baby — might be harder to achieve later in life?
Yes of course. Contraceptives prevent (most) conception, but it’s worth reminding women that pregnancy cannot happen just by stopping using them.
In addition, the chances of getting pregnant decrease as you get older. Making this simple and obvious point on the side of the pack, like with cigarettes, is one way to convey that reality to the people it’s relevant to.
Even now, a lot of sex education – aimed at teens – is about not getting pregnant.
Bridget Jones’s novels, in which poor Bridget was forever reminded of the rhythm of the biological clock – “tick-tock” – moving inexorably toward middle age and infertility, made the point that the woman who could have once been able to avoid pregnancy , later maybe want nothing more than a baby.
But it’s still extraordinary that so many women you meet seem to think that their personal autonomy, which they can exercise in any other area of life, necessarily extends to having a baby. A blunt reminder of reality on a box of condoms or a pill box might reinforce the point that this isn’t the case.
Fifty years ago it was obvious that having children was something better to do sooner than later.
Biology is important. And the gross biological fact is that we become less likely to get pregnant the older we get. There is a mismatch between our career path and our reproductive prospects. We need help remembering that, because the culture of the time suggests that reproduction can be turned on and off at will.
Many women assume that egg freezing will free them from the constraints of declining fertility. But the success rate of using a frozen egg is woefully low.
It’s not the universal panacea we seem to think.
Of course, there’s no need to get paranoid. Many women get pregnant late in life – Thomas Cromwell, Hilary Mantel’s hero at Wolf Hall, was conceived when his mother was in her late 40s. Everything is possible. Only the chance of it happening gets smaller as time goes by.
Nature doesn’t care about your career plans; it has its own agenda. Put that on a pack of condoms.