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Claudia Spahr, UK-based Author

By Claudia Spahr, UK-based author and Fertility Coach.

This was the question asked on BBC Radio Four’s Woman’s Hour (see link below) this week. I always stick up for older moms but it’s not often you get the opportunity to do it in front of over three million listeners on one of the UK’s leading radio shows.

I must admit I had a few sleepless nights before the program, going over potential scenarios in my head, preparing my arguments and generally getting psyched up. And as always with these things you get about 30 seconds air-time to make your point.

(Click here to listen to BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour program on “How Long Can You Realistically Wait To Have A Baby?” (http://www NULL.bbc NULL.co NULL.uk/programmes/p01ccb9d))


The scientific reality of aging eggs

One of the issues I raised on the show was that health, lifestyle and mindset are more important than actual age when it comes to fertility. I don’t like the ageing eggs argument because I believe it’s the three months of follicle ripening which determine how intact the DNA are for creating a healthy embryo.

DNA molecules have the knowledge within them to repair and self- heal, given a nutrient-rich environment. This argument comes from epigenetics and nutrigenomics – the cutting edge in science today.


The truth about fertility statistics

A recent article in The Atlantic (http://www NULL.theatlantic NULL.com/magazine/archive/2013/07/how-long-can-you-wait-to-have-a-baby/309374/) discussed the misleading and outdated statistics on fertility after 35. New data suggests there is only about a four to six per cent dip in fertility from our mid thirties, rather than the scaremongering advice generally fed to us by the medical establishment.

Real figures on fertility after 40 don’t exist because it’s a new phenomenon that so many women over 40 are actively trying to conceive. What we do know is that the abortion rates for women over 40 are identical to those under 16 in the UK; mainly women who assumed they couldn’t get pregnant because of their age, so they ceased using contraception.


Time to stop insulting women

One of the other guests on the show was British TV celebrity, Kate Garraway, who fronts the campaign Get Britain Fertile (http://www NULL.getbritainfertile NULL.com/) encouraging women to have their children young. Garraway is  herself an older mom (children at 38 and 42) but says she regrets leaving it ‘too late’ for a third child.

For the campaign she poses as a 70-year old pregnant woman (http://www NULL.telegraph NULL.co NULL.uk/women/mother-tongue/10064463/Kate-Garraway-I-wish-Id-had-my-babies-younger NULL.html) in an attempt to shock women into considering their options. The idea for this exaggerated image may be taken from New York Magazine (http://nymag NULL.com/news/features/mothers-over-50-2011-10/) but either way I find it insulting and damaging to women. It reinforces negative stereotypes and is using fear in a manipulative way. It’s a personal choice which age a woman procreates; an individual freedom no one has the right to dictate or take away.

Interestingly the Get Britain Fertile campaign is sponsored by a multi-billion dollar US-based company. They sell household cleaning and personal hygiene products loaded with toxic chemicals and synthetic hormones; all the stuff that’s making millions of people infertile at any age.

But I doubt they want consumers to know that. It would be very bad for business. Much better to blame women for waiting too long.



Notes for this blog:

Claudia Spahr (http://www NULL.claudiaspahr NULL.com/) is a journalist, IIN Health and Fertility Coach and author of Right Time Baby – The Complete Guide to Later Motherhood (http://www NULL.amazon NULL.com/Right-Time-Baby-Motherhood-Pregnancy/dp/1848502567/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1372806371&sr=8-1&keywords=right+time+baby). She is currently 44 and expecting her third naturally conceived child since turning 40.  Claudia also runs HolyMama yoga retreats (http://www NULL.lotusyogaibiza NULL.com/Holymama NULL.html) in Ibiza, Spain for moms and tots.

BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour on “How Long Can You Realistically Wait To Have A Baby?”: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01ccb9d (: http://www NULL.bbc NULL.co NULL.uk/programmes/p01ccb9d NULL. ).

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6 Responses to How Long Can You Really Wait To Have A Baby?

  1. Marna Gatlin (http://www NULL.pved NULL.org) says:

    I want to say that each woman is individual. This is my problem with the media. You have one camp that says don’t worry about your Fertility and lots of women over 40 have children every day successfully. Then there’s the other camp that says oh my God went you hit 30 you really need to start paying attention – And you have those women at 40 who say why didn’t anybody tell me that I needed to worry about my fertility because now I’m 40 and I can’t have a child with my own genetics – Celebrities make it look so easy.

    The reality is both camps are right.

    What’s crazy making for me is the lack of education available to women about their Fertility. We spend millions of dollars each year educating women about breast cancer, depression, cardiovascular disease, aging, osteoporosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. etc. etc.- And oh my God don’t forget there’s billions of dollars spent each year on weight loss products.

    But not a lot spent on Fertility.

    Every woman starting at age 30 should begin having regular hormone testing just like you do a Pap smear. It’s a simple blood test that will measure your FSH (follicle stimulating hormone aka ovarian reserve ) – As well as your estradiol level and progesterone level.

    This simple blood test is a great tool that all women should use to know what’s going on with their bodies.

    Knowledge is power.

    We do very simple things in order to know what’s going on with our body- We conduct monthly breast exams to look for lumps. At age 50 we have our first colonoscopy to rule out anything weird going on our colon. At age 35 or 40 depending on where you live we have our first baseline mammogram. We also have regular blood tests once a year to monitor our cholesterol. Women also have a bone density test once we hit 40 or 50 to screen for osteoporosis.

    So it makes sense that we would begin monitoring our Fertility as well.

  2. Marna, I couldn’t agree with you more! This is a common sense approach to our reproductive health, as long as it is given in a non-judgmental manner. (There’s too much “blame” leveled at women regarding age and fertility, with suggestions that they are selfish for “delaying”.)
    It is my belief that education on reproductive health and age should be taught at schools so that women enter adulthood with an awareness of fertility.

  3. Claudia Spahr says:

    Interesting point Marna. I do agree that fertility and sexuality are important areas where women should be educated. However the approach with testing is far too medical-based. And it can create anxiety due to the many false positives. No test is 100% reliable and it’s a momentary analysis. We know that our cells and genes can change very quickly when we change our diet and lifestyle. WIth mice for eg it can take one day for gene expression to shift. Early menopause can be reversed and sub-fertile couples can get pregnant naturally.

    The US and most developped countries don’t focus enough on health, nutrition and lifestyle and it’s role in disease prevention. The so-called ‘healthcare’ system is in crisis. In fact it’s more of a sickcare system or a very expensive disease management system. My aim is to educate people to take back control and charge of their own health. By undergoing lots of medical tests there is a danger of handing over that responsibility. Of course there are very good doctors out there (for example those trained at the Institute of Integrative Medicine or Functional Medicine) and many of them understand the concept of ‘healing’ and have studied the role of food. But unfortunately far too many prescribe pharmaceuticals and fertility drugs when a different approach would be more effective and less harsh on the body.

  4. Elizabeth Gregory (http://www NULL.domesticproduct NULL.net) says:

    Two odd dynamics in the Get Britain Fertile campaign: 1. Kate Garraway, the woman in the photo, is well known for having had two kids in her 40s — effectively undercutting the claim of the photo that older moms will be worn out shells of themselves. 2. Britain overall is currently experiencing a fertility boom, including some women who put off children earlier.
    Here’s my take (x2) on the economic and race dynamics in play:
    https://theconversation.com/dont-lecture-older-mums-for-problems-made-by-men-15452 (https://theconversation NULL.com/dont-lecture-older-mums-for-problems-made-by-men-15452)

    http://www.domesticproduct.net/?p=1213 (http://www NULL.domesticproduct NULL.net/?p=1213)

  5. Jennifer Yao says:

    I very much like Claudia’s point, regarding of positive attitude may change people’s body, or even reverse our fertility trend.

    But still, there are facts. We surely observed most of women didn’t give birth after age 38. I used to believe that’s only “in history”. I thought our tech is so improved, that we– the women in new era– can all give birth after 40.

    I would still like to believe bio clock might not work on me, or there might be a miracle. But I know if I knew the fact earlier, I might choose different.

    Our society indeed doesn’t educate women enough for the fertility statistic. Many young women still believe it is easy to have kids at age 38 or even 45.

    Like Angel said, the none-judgment manner is the key. If we keep a nurture attitude, focus on statistic, to tell people what the fact of fertility is. Can everyone learn from the numbers, and not being insulted? We also need to mention there is still hope. As Claudia said, we have chance to reverse the trend, it may not be majority, but never give up.

    On another hand, we sure need to voice loud about how hurtful those chemical products can be. Just try to state that in a nurture way, instead of “fear”.

    Is that a good direction?

  6. Lia says:

    I know I’m coming to this discussion a little late, but as a 38 year old woman who does not have children because she insisted on waiting until she found a suitable partner, I feel I must comment on the reasons why women wait to have babies. I find it more than mildly marginalizing that a majority of the rhetoric I read about women waiting to have children has to do with career decisions. What about those of us who come from divorced families–those of us who swore we wouldn’t put a child through at hell? What about those women with certain medical conditions that make us vassilate between wanting to have children and not wanting to having them? Why does everyone think that a bustling career is the only reason why women in their late 30s and beyond wait to have children?

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