Yet another study to scare young women into breeding

Today The Washington Post reminds young women to have children before they’re too old and their eggs have all dried up. Enjoy that with your morning coffee, ladies!

“That’s a greater percentage of loss at an earlier age than had previously been reported,” says reproductive endocrinologist Robert Stillman, of Shady Grove Fertility in Rockville. “One might be able to argue whether there are 12 percent remaining at age 30 or 22 percent or even 40 percent, but it is still clear that there’s a very rapid loss in the number of eggs available as women age and that the smaller pool of [older] eggs is also more likely to” contain a higher proportion of abnormal eggs, he adds, pointing out that from the mid-30s on, the decline in fertility is much steeper with each passing year.

“This adds to the abundant evidence that for women, unfortunately, it’s use ’em or lose ’em.”

via Ovaries have not adjusted to many women’s decision to delay having children – washingtonpost.com.

I get the need to disseminate information to women who really, really want children no matter the financial or emotional cost. So to those ladies, hey, guess what? You’re most fertile in your teens and 20s – have at it! But as someone who easily conceived healthy children in my 30s (as did the majority of my friends) every time I hear the alarm I wonder how all of us managed to have children if the statistics are so dire. Anecdotal evidence is not science, so pointing to my girlfriend who had her first child without the use of any medical intervention at 40 won’t win this argument, but I wish the urgency of these reports would be hampered by the reality I see around me at my local mom’s group.

I do have friends who needed medical assistance to conceive, but if they had started earlier they still would have needed that medical assistance. One thing they wouldn’t have had in their 20s were their supportive partners seeing them through a very trying time.

What I hate about this constant drumbeat, is the message that women can’t have it all so they had better start reproducing now. Then, at the least, you’ll have that prized baby. Which is really all women want anyway, right? So saddle yourself with a dependent before you’ve had a chance to discover who you are, before you connect with a partner joining you on this journey and before you’re able to reach personal and career goals. I know that a drop in egg production is a reality, but there are still thousands of eggs left in the pipeline. To tell women under 30 to “use ’em or lose ’em” is dramatically delimiting, especially when I  see evidence to the contrary at every PTA meeting I attend.

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10 Responses to Yet another study to scare young women into breeding

  1. justinfrederick says:

    Wow lets slow our role here. Nobody said you can’t have it all. I am a 27 year old father of two with my own business. I live in a nice house and a nice town. Just like you are frusterated with poeple pressuring you to reproduce. I am tired of young parents being looked at as uneducated hillbillies with no chance of a future or happyness. I am not accusing you of thinking this way but just like you feel there is a “constant drumbeat, is the message that women can’t have it all so they had better start reproducing now.”. I feel the same type judgement is made about young parents. Kids don’t always get in the way of living a full life. Just like not having kids doesn’t impare your ability to have a full life.

    The article was just stating new information don’t take it so personally.

  2. almedaw says:

    I agree with Justin. This article & the study behind it is not saying that women over 30 cannot have children, but you do loose the vast majority of your eggs (keep in mind that you start with thousands and thousands so at 30 you still have a lot).
    There is also plenty of data to support the fact that in your 30s your fertility drops substantially.
    I don’t believe this article is about scaring people but keeping people aware of the fact that our bodies were designed to carry children by a certain age, and going past that can sometimes have road blocks.

  3. April Peveteaux says:

    The problem with this article is that this isn’t news, it’s just a fear-inducing article rehashing the same information – for what? If you Google “fertility over 30” you’ll see how many articles have been published, and most at major news organizations, on this exact same topic. Why do we need another one? Feels paternalistic to me.

    Justin – I’m not taking it personally, if you read my piece you’d see that a) I’m in my 30s, and b) I already have two children.

    I’m annoyed that this same article is written over and over and over and treated as “news” as if there are no other factors when people choose to have children than fresh eggs. As a dad, you should be offended that the man’s role is so completely ignored when this alarm rings out.

    Furthermore, I never said young parents are uneducated hillbillies, that’s something you’re bringing to the table – not me. If you are lucky enough to meet your spouse at a young age, achieve financial security and feel ready to have children, that’s fantastic. Most people aren’t. Most people I know get to a good place in their 30s (and some much later) and have achieved all of these things. It’s a disservice for a news organization to tell young women that that scenario will probably not happen for them. It happened for me and it happens all the time.

  4. walkeraza says:

    There are two issues here. (1) The science that it’s healthiest to bear children in one’s 20s and (2) what conclusions should be drawn from that fact. We’re focusing on the “takeaway” for personal choice: The Wash Post article talks about women’s “decision” to wait and this post thinks about the effect of telling women to hurry up and breed.

    But isn’t the real issue that we have a culture designed to put off child-rearing? It’s not like women just up and starting “deciding” that they all wanted to have children later in life. We’re marrying later. Woman are pursuing education more than they did in previous generations. But we still have an education system/culture that makes it nearly impossible to do that while also raising young children. So we either need to accept as a culture what that means to our overall risk categories for disease and infertility (acceptable choice in my book) or think about major policy/culture changes like supporting families in academic (graduate) environments, child care support (which makes it more viable to have children early in a career), etc. . . . (also acceptable in my book).

  5. Todd Essig says:

    The “use ’em or lose ’em”rhetoric in the article is a truly unfortunate conclusion, especially as you say if it pressures women in their 20s to have kids before they are ready to do so. I also don’t think it’s necessary. Fewer viable eggs means longer time spent trying to conceive (i.e. more months of frequent, unprotected–hopefully hot–sex). So, the conclusion from this research should not have been to have kids before you’re ready. Instead, it should have been if you wait till your early 30s you’ll have to have more sex to get pregnant. I think the fertility curve data still does not start its drop until the late 30s

    Looks like evolution has “over-engineered” ovaries!!

    • April Peveteaux says:

      Yes, it is the rhetoric that is unfortunate.

      The sky is not actually falling, women in their 30s still have thousands of viable eggs. But the message here is, “They’re drying up! Act quickly.”

      I also appreciate your equation of older women = more hot sex. Thanks for that, Todd.

  6. zoobadger says:

    I agree that the media beats this particular drum too loudly and too often, but I’d like to gently caution you that your personal experience is not predictive for the population as a whole.

    Fertility does indeed decline with age and a statistically significant number of women who could have borne children in their 20’s will be unable to do so in their mid-30’s. The matter may be overemphasized and exaggerated but it is nevertheless a stubborn fact.

    And referring to pregnancy and child-rearing as “breeding” is callow rather than ironic or clever.

    • April Peveteaux says:

      Zoobadger, I did point out that antidotes are not evidence. My issue was with, in your words, “the media beats this particular drum too loudly and too often.” So I’m not sure where your disagreement lies.

      Also, when the tone is “use ’em or lose ’em” there is no consideration of parenting as a whole. That’s not child-rearing, it’s breeding.

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