In my schooldays, most sex education classes centred on how to put a condom on a banana. But now, a coalition of doctors, fertility experts and campaigners has proposed sex education should focus as much on conception as contraception. Their plan, in short, is to teach teenagers how to get pregnant.
According to the Fertility Education Initiative (FEI), young women are delaying motherhood due to misconceptions around IVF and fertility. The average age for a woman to have a child in the UK is now 30, while the number of women having children over the age of 35 continues to rise.
The researchers said young women do not realise they may not become pregnant the moment they start trying for a baby and the proposed classes will teach girls about the impact of ageing and lifestyle on fertility, to ensure they “can make informed decisions about their future”.
But as a woman in her twenties, I can tell you these lessons will not empower women, and I doubt they will bring the age of mothers in the UK down.
The reason I’ve not had a child yet is not because I don’t know it’s difficult at an older age. At 26-years-old, I can’t afford to become a mum, and neither can a lot of women my age.
We are the hapless souls dubbed “generation rent”, the people who have no chance in hell of buying a house without help from family. The latest statistics show 4.5 million households in England are privately rented, and 46% of tenants are between the ages of 25 to 34. In the majority of cases, you need a whacking great deposit - almost £1,000 - before you can even move into these properties. It’s hard to come by if you’ve just graduated with around £35,000-£40,000 of student debt and you’re slipping into your overdraft thanks to a stint of interning.
Each month, my wage is swallowed by mortgage repayments, bills and a £400 per month commute - there’s not a lot left for nappies
I am one of the lucky ones, having become a homeowner last year after family helped massively with the deposit, but each month, my wage is swallowed by mortgage repayments, bills and a £400 per month commute - there’s not a lot left for nappies.
Like many households, my partner and I both work to cover our financial commitments and this would have to continue if we had a child. But here lies another issue; just two days ago, the Family and Childcare Trust’s annual childcare survey revealed the price of childcare is soaring. Sending a child in Britain aged under two to nursery part-time, for 25 hours a week, now costs £122 – up 7% on last year.
The FEI’s proposed classes sound like they come with the best of intentions, with the aim of giving women informed choice. But at the moment, I feel like I don’t have a choice about whether or not to become a mother.
Today’s teenagers may not be clued up about IVF success rates or egg freezing, but I assure you, by the time they hit 26 they will be all too aware of their declining fertility. My parents frequently ask me when they will become grandparents, the tabloids write about my biological clock like it’s a ticking time bomb, but for me, motherhood doesn’t feel like a viable option.
Millennials are often given a hard time for being the Peter Pans of the adult world who refuse to grow up, but it’s not laziness, immaturity or entitlement that’s holding us back, it’s the socio-economic climate. Teaching young women how to get pregnant is pointless if we don’t have a society that supports young women to be mothers.