Children need to be taught that their fertility will decline with age, according to the government’s first ever Women’s Health Ambassador.
Because apparently, it’s not enough to warn teens about accidental pregnancy these days – you also have to warn them about their limited procreation window.
Professor Dame Lesley Regan, who was appointed as the government’s first ever Women’s Health Ambassador in June, said we need to “do a lot more” to prepare teenagers for their fertility declining, including telling girls: “Your ovaries get worn out.”
“We need TikTok videos, don’t we, and all of those sorts of things: ‘Remember that your ovaries get worn out or they get tired or they get too old’. We’ve got to impress on them the importance of all of those things and of taking charge of their fertility, either to explore it or to curtail it,” she said at the annual conference of the fertility charity Progress Educational Trust (PET).
“So I think the education side of it is absolutely crucial. And I don’t think it should just be schools, I think it should be all of us in society making sure that we give adolescents the tools that they need to make the best decisions for themselves later in life and I include the boys in that as well as the girls.”
Dr Gitau Mburu, of the World Health Organisation, added that this is about giving teens “age-appropriate information”, not telling them “plan your fertility now”.
But the statements are bound to raise a few eyebrows, not least because the mention of ‘ovaries’ once again puts women at the centre of the nation’s declining birth rate.
Let’s be honest, how many 30-year-old women haven’t received comments about their ‘biological clock’ at some point?
Sarah Norcross, director of fertility campaign group PET, previously told HuffPost UK it’s not ignorance that’s causing women to ‘delay motherhood’, nor is it their careers.
“Research suggests it is the lack of a male partner prepared to commit to parenthood that is the key driver for women choosing to become single mothers,” she said.
“These are not women focused solely on their career and they are not necessarily women who have failed to find the man they want to have children with – it is the absence of a man ready to become a dad that has led to this reproductive choice.”
It’s true that parents are getting older across the country – this year, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that for the first time since records began, half of women in England and Wales do not have kids by their 30th birthday.
But here’s the thing, it’s not necessarily a problem. It could just be a sign that being child-free by choice is becoming less of a taboo.
There’s also plenty of financial barriers preventing people who do want to have children from doing so.
The UK has some of the worst childcare support in Europe, with parents now paying an average of more than £7,000 per year just for a part-time nursery place. In some areas of the country, it’s even higher. Almost two thirds of families are paying more, or the same, for their childcare as they do their rent or mortgage.
If you want to help more hopeful parents have kids, how about tackling those problem first, before scaring teenage girls about their shrivelling ovaries?