Thursday, 12 June 2014

The female fertility window: we need more education and less speculation

The past week has seen an explosion of comment and opinion surrounding Kirstie Allsopp’s bold statement that she would rather her hypothetical daughter focused on positioning herself for pregnancy, as oppose to attending university.

Her supporting argument is that, while men have the luxury of fathering children well into their senior years, after 35 female fertility ‘drops off a cliff’. This fact is sadly one which cannot be debated away. As a fertility and IVF specialist, I have treated many women who thought, as we live longer and healthier lives, they had more time for motherhood – only to be left heartbroken.

Yet simply telling women to have children younger, and give up on career prospects, is not the answer. Women should take action early to preserve their fertility. What is needed is the availability of accurate fertility information, plus unfettered access to modern reproductive treatments. Services such as Fertility MOTs provide women with clear facts on their ovarian egg reserve, and enable us to make informed decisions on protecting our fertility.

So, what options does a career-minded young woman have if she chooses to leave pregnancy until later?  There are two main alternatives. She may pursue her career, and if her egg reserve is too low for natural pregnancy when she finally wants to have children, can opt for egg donation. Or alternatively (and this is an increasingly attractive alternative), she can take advantage of the tremendous advances in egg-freezing, or ‘vitrification’, that allow women to bank healthy fresh eggs that can be fertilised when ready to start a family. If the latter, then one or two egg freezing cycles should be carried out before her early 30’s, while egg reserve and quality are good.

What needs to be remembered in this debate is that yes, nature provides women with a much more limited fertility window, but through the delivery of comprehensive education and greater access to services such as Fertility MOTs and egg-freezing, women can take control of their fertility and make the choices that are right for them – with the freedom to pursue any and every ambition.

To read more about Dr Geeta Nargund's work, visit the Create Fertility website


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