The following is an actual conversation I had recently which, to be honest, terrified me:
Fertility Doctor: "How old are you?"
Me: "Thirty two."
Fertility Doctor: "Do you have a partner?"
Fertility Doctor: "Why haven't you had a baby yet? You need to start NOW."
I should point out I was not seeing the doctor for an appointment. I was filming with a couple trying for a baby for my new health show. The doctor felt so strongly about her subject though, that she felt the need to give me a warning.
My reaction was one of slight panic. I only recently turned 32 and I'm healthy. Surely my biological clock still has time left on it? Apparently it's not for certain. It got me thinking though and I decided that despite her strong argument for "getting a move on," this is really not a good time. For starters my boyfriend lives in another country and we've only been together for just over a year. My crazy filming schedules and unpredictable projects wouldn't fit in very well with a child, plus I am just not ready. Will I ever be ready?
I am an absolute typical example of a new breed of women. Been married, divorced, very independent, love my job, enjoy my freedom and subconsciously take it for granted that I will have children at some point. Is it wrong to want to be settled, secure, with a house and garden before we decide to reproduce? Morally and socially, no, but biologically we are taking a big gamble.
Our bodies are designed to have children in our early twenties. For most of history, women have had children very young. That being said, they would have had lots of them and would have continued popping them out until they were no longer able, or stopped having sex.
One of the most famous and powerful women in the Middle Ages, Eleanor of Aquitaine, who was married to King Louis VII of France, then King Henry II of England, bore 10 children and lived into her 80s. Queen Victoria bore nine children. They were lucky though, as many women died from pregnancy and birth complications. Think to yourself now how many women you know have had emergency C-sections? Would they have survived without modern medicine? A scary thought.
History lesson over. Let's return to the present. We don't live in the Middle Ages and medicine has progressed but our bodies are still the same. Women only have a finite number of eggs, which are shed every month. Once they are gone, they are gone. End of story.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF), the process where an egg and sperm are manually fertilised on a laboratory dish, is on the rise. It's wonderful that such a science exists but should we be relying on it as a back up plan in case nature isn't doing its thing by the time we are finally "ready" to have children? You can make your own minds up about that.
What shocked me the most when chatting to the fertility doctor is that it's actually pretty tricky to get pregnant. Most women spend the majority of their young adult lives trying NOT to get pregnant. Then things change and it's full steam ahead, so to speak. What I've witnessed though is the disappointment and stress when it doesn't happen immediately. The truth is, by your 30s there's only a 15 per cent chance of getting pregnant during a single ovulation. So that means it could take up to three years to get pregnant.
I also learned that there's really only one day per cycle you can fall pregnant. So if you are trying for a baby and don't have sex near the time of ovulation then there's little chance of falling pregnant. The advice is to have sex in the days before your ovulation as well as the actual day. Sperm can happily swim around inside our ladies bits for a few days before dying. Nice!
So how do you know when you are ovulating? It usually happens between 12 to 14 days before your period starts but they best way to tell is to monitor you LH (luteinizing hormone) levels. This can be done using at-home urine testing kits. When LH spikes, you've released an egg. The problem is you need to be having sex before you get the LH reading because by the time you get a high level, it's already happened.
My number one piece of advice to ladies trying for a baby is to relax. Stress does not help you conceive. Doing it at the right time of the month does. My advice to ladies not wanting to conceive is to use contraception and listen out for the tick-tock before you leave it too late.