• Tue, Sep 10 - 4:45 pm ET

Professor Warns Women To Get To Baby Making Before 35 Or Face Certain Doom

29462305Gird your loins ladies and gents, you’re about to be shocked and amazed. Did you know that a woman’s fertility actually DECREASES after age 35? I hope I didn’t cause any shock-related strokes, because this is totally and completely NEW NEWS, right? Well, it is if you’re professor Mary Herbert of the Institute for Aging and Health at the University of Newcastle, who wants to get the word out ASAP.

Herbert is worried that more and more women, oblivious to the chromosomal damage that comes with age, are putting off motherhood to pursue other goals. She worries that they don’t understand that “no amount of fertility treatment” can reverse this damage and feels they should have babies before age 35, “while they still have healthy eggs.” According to Herbert, at the British Science Festival:

“What we can say for sure is that reproductive technologies do not do much to buy time. Perhaps the most important message to give is that the best cure of all is to have your babies before this clock strikes 12.”

Herbert spoke at the festival, along with other experts, about fertility and stressed that family planning shouldn’t just involve preventing unwanted pregnancy, but also timing wanted pregnancies, which I think is a valid point. But then she wanders off into sitcom MIL territory with this one:

“I would be getting worried about my daughter if she hadn’t had a child by 35.”

Doesn’t this remind you of something Ray Romano‘s mom would have said on “Everybody Loves Raymond”? What is she going to say next? That our cooking is terrible and we need to do something about our hair? Oh, it gets worse:

“Women tell me it’s their career,” said Prof Herbert. “In a sense I think that’s misguided, because there’s no career where it gets less busy as you go on.”

Oh women, and their silly good-ish careers! When will they learn?

Seriously though, I think Herbert, and her colleagues, make some good points. Women DO need to be informed of all possibilities, and that includes potential risks for having babies later on. But personally, I think they’re beating a dead horse here. This point has been made again and again; it’s no secret. So if you’re going to make the argument for education, great, but leave out the ridiculous career shaming while you’re doing it.

(Photo: memegenerator.com)

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  • Mystik Spiral

    It seems that common knowledge, much like common sense, is not as common as one might believe.

  • meteor_echo

    Professor Mary Herbert should be warned about the intrusiveness of unwanted uterus-spelunking, unless she wants a kick to the chesticles from some angry woman who is pissed off by the incessant gimme-a-baby hounding.
    I’d volunteer to be that woman, but I live on a different continent.

    • Emmali Lucia

      GIMME-A-BABY. I HEARD THAT EASTERN EUROPE HAS OVERFLOWING ORPHANAGES.

      Actually don’t gimme-a-baby. I’m busy with my bar.

    • meteor_echo

      I can give you wheat vodka. All around better than a baby.

    • Emmali Lucia

      I’ll trade you one wheat vodka for a potato vodka and the deal is ON.

    • meteor_echo

      Deal :)

      Unrelated: my cat sneaked outside and is gone, still not home yet after several hours. He sometimes does that and comes back, but every time I’m worried sick about him to the point of anxiety attacks. He’s sort of like a service animal that keeps me from being suicidal.

    • Emmali Lucia

      Oh No. I hope he comes back soon. Do you have a fenced back yard that you can super reinforce? Or you could buy a ton of kiddy gates and keep them in the frames of your door. I do that to keep my dogs from peeing on clothes

      If I could I’d find a way to send my home-made Bloody Mary’s over to you I totally would. They’re… Not great, though. I’m still pulling tomato skin out of my teeth. D:

    • meteor_echo

      He’s a jumper, he’d skip right over those. I hope he’ll come back soon, he used to be a stray and so is careful and mistrustful.
      I feel sick with anxiety.

    • Emmali Lucia

      Is there anything that will help you out? I mean, I could send you my Xanax but I think that would be a federal crime and it wouldn’t get to you for weeks, anyways.

    • meteor_echo

      Meh, it’s 7 am and the cat is not there, I have been cutting myself for an hour now anyway.

    • Rachel Sea

      If you don’t have someone to talk to to keep you together until he gets back, there are people on the other end of the phone and chat here: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

      When he does come back, maybe you would consider getting him a kitten? Cats are social animals, and appreciate companionship from their own species – and a second friend for you couldn’t be a bad thing.

      You can also put up screen doors at your exterior doors to create a kind of airlock to keep him from slipping out.

    • meteor_echo

      Thank you for trying to help.
      Calling those guys is sort of pointless, since I live on another continent, and their chat is offline at the moment. I really don’t feel like talking to anyone either, talking to others never helps.

      I do have a second cat and we cannot afford getting another one. Those two don’t get along too well, unfortunately. I try to entertain him as much as I can, and play with him a lot.

      If he comes back, he’s never going outside again. I’ll make sure of that.

    • chickadee

      Please tell me he came back….we have 2 cats under the age of 1 and the oldest (11 months) wanders a lot. If we don’t whistle him home before dusk, there’s a good chance he’ll stay out all night (which he did once and almost gave me a heart attack).

      He will come back.

    • meteor_echo

      he didn’t

    • chickadee

      Shit. I am so sorry. Still hoping he shows up, though. Croaking my fingers for you.

    • meteor_echo

      He did come back right now! I’ll have to take him to the vet because he limps, and I had to emergency wash him, but he’s mostly okay. I love him dearly, but he’s a little domestic pestlet.

    • chickadee

      YAY! I am so happy, and a limp is not too bad. My wandering babykitty broke his hip by crawling under a low chest when the scary cable man came once, and he couldnt walk at all, so you are probably just dealing with a bruise.

    • meteor_echo

      Awww :( Is your kitty okay now?
      Mine has a double limp now (the elbow joint on one of his front legs is partially dislocated, the vet couldn’t fix it despite trying his best). I checked the newly-limpy leg, and it really seems like a bruise. what a silly critter.

    • chickadee

      He is. The vet said babykitty (aka Wash, short for Washburn, short for Hogan Washburn) broke the joint right off, so he just went in and removed it, and he formed a false joint and is as good as new.

      The dislocation might resolve itself, or your kitty may just learn to live with it. I am SO pleased your cat made it home…!

    • ElleJai

      I know it’s six days later, but I’m an ex cutter. If you ever need someone to talk to I’m available :)

      There are some actually helpful places and programs out there, although it takes a lot of sifting through idiots to find them. May I ask what continent you reside upon?

    • meteor_echo

      Thank you for trying to help :)
      Unfortunately, it’s a part of a much bigger problem (depression, dysmorphia, trust issues, having been sexually abused) that I do not currently have the resources to deal with. It also won’t really go away permanently even if I got help. I don’t have the money for it either – sadly, so I have to deal with it no my own.
      As for my residence – I live in Ukraine :)

    • ElleJai

      Take away the dysmorphia and put morbidly obese in there and you could be me. Cutting usually goes with sexual abuse and attendant issues so I’m not scared off by the list. Still here.

      My email is lizburke87@hotmail.com if you ever need it. I have experience with counselling, cutting, depression, abuse, etc so forth and I’m a free bonus intercountry friend!

  • Rachel Sea

    There is no career that gets less busy…except for all the higher level positions which pay well enough that you don’t need a second job, allow you to decide how much of which duties to delegate, allow you to arrange your own schedule, or offer flex time, and actually provide decent benefits, and paid time off.

    Mary should come down off her high horse, so she can see that those of us down here on the ground don’t get to have it both ways. Unless you enter adulthood (or enter a relationship) with significant privilege, you can either have a kid, or you can afford to have a kid.

    • AP

      A career with a strong preference for youth gets easier as you get older, because you have to cash out young.

      At work, I just processed the HR stats of a fairly successful tech startup with very well-paid employees. Half the company was under 30, and only a quarter was 40 or older. Three employees had children, most employees were single.

  • reagan

    Am I the only one who doesn’t have a problem with this article?

    • Rachel Sea

      It’s not the content, it’s the oh-so condescending message that us ladies shouldn’t get too wrapped up in our careers, because babies.

      It is good for women to know about declining fertility, but the message should end before lifestyle advice comes into play. The notion that we all have choices about our careers, and that we can set them aside is classist, and sexist.

    • reagan

      Oh. Ok. Because it seemed like to me, she was saying that women over 35 have higher risks. I don’t have an issue with the subject being reintroduced….like I said, I don’t take offense because yes, careers and goals can divert having a baby. I don’t think she meant anything offensively and I surely don’t take it as sexist or classist.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      It wasn’t the information per se, as Rachel said, it was the condescending way it was said.She might not have MEAN’T to be classist but people who are being classist often don’t even realize it. The whole “If MY daughter waited until 35″ thing especially annoyed me. It just reminded me of an interfering mother or MIL. That being said, I was being more than a little tongue in cheek as well.

    • reagan

      My MIL begged me to have another baby but I was more career focused at the age of 29 after my son was born. I can’t tell you how many years it took me saying, “no, I don’t want to and neither does your son,” to get her to stop (although I said it much nicer than that). So, I understand what your saying, but the article still doesn’t bother me, just like my MIL didn’t when she kept asking me for another grand baby. I do, however, love her for loving my little family so much that she wanted to see it expand :)

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      That’s actually really sweet, the way you put it. But to me that makes a perfect stranger saying it even more annoying. It can be sweet when it comes from a loving family member, but it’s condescending and annoying (to me) coming from someone I don’t know whatsoever.

    • reagan

      I can understand that :) Although she was my doctor, I didn’t really know her….but after my son, I wanted long term birth control (like an IUD or something) and she told me no because I wasn’t done having babies. That was irritating to say the least. So I get cha…..

    • meteor_echo

      Yes.

  • Blueathena623

    I don’t think people need to keep hitting the panic button about 35, but I have known (anecdote ahead!) a couple of career-oriented women who didn’t seem to grasp that, 35 danger zone or not, having kids later meant having less time to have kids. I know that seems totally stupid, and every woman with even half a brain should get that, but there is this mentality that once you decide to have kids you’ll automatically get pregnant the next month. I have a one and a half year old, but my reproductive journey, as it were, started a little over 3 years ago, and I didn’t have that much trouble conceiving, but I had a miscarriage and gave my body a few months to recover. And I do want another kid, but I’m not going to try for another year. And if it takes a few months to concieve, were looking at my fertility over a 5 year span.

    • OhHeyDelilah

      Yeah, I do think that it’s important we’re all aware of the facts when it comes to fertility, and that there is evidence out there showing a decline in fertility at a certain point that may shape the way we need to approach having a family. I really agree with that. And I think there genuinely ARE some people out there who perhaps haven’t really looked into the detail, the research, the risks etc when it comes to their fertility – in many ways, advances in fertility treatment may be lulling some of us into a false sense of security about how long we have.

      I think though (and this next bit is in response to the issue in general of women leaving it ‘too late’ to have kids, not to your comment) that the issue is, if it’s about education, there are ways to go about it by telling women ‘Hey, are you aware that if you want to have a family, minimise your risk of complications etc, that research shows x is the best way to go about it?’ I think what’s pissing so many of us off is that we constantly get told that we (and not our partners) are leaving it ‘too long’ to have children, because we are selfish (we want to have a career/don’t want to settle in a crap relationship for the sake of having babies/want to be financially stable etc) – these arguments never acknowledge that so many of the factors involved in the decision to have a family are often out of our hands.

    • Blueathena623

      Totally agree with your second paragraph. The focus is on women, even though there is growing evidence that men’s sperm seriously declines in quality over time. And, from what I’ve seen, the whole ” waiting because of a career & money” always seems to be portrayed like if the woman would just stop buying so many shoes and going on too many vacations and attending so many yoga classes, she would have the time and money for oodles of kids! Uh hello! Our economy still sucks and has sucked for a while now, and you can’t go a day without reading something about the crippling student debt people are graduating with. So yeah, at least for some women, its not a shoes – hot shot lawyer thing, its a minimum wage – massive debt thing.

    • BubbleyToes

      Yea, I started “not not trying” 2 years ago and here I sit, very much not pregnant. I am still in my 20s so I know I “have time” (however you interpret that) but it’s still unsettling to know that I probably will never get pregnant on my own without expensive medical interventions. This makes me glad that I didn’t wait until my 30′s, when I’d ideally like to have children, to start not preventing because apparently it will take me many years.

  • Emmali Lucia

    My mother had me when she was 41, I am her first born and I am as healthy as can be, was a 10 out of 10 on the APGAR scale, the whole shooting match.

    I honestly think it’s a really bad idea to have kids late in life, but not because of “OMG YOUR WOMB IS GOING TO SHRIVEL AT 35,”

    I think having kids later in life is a bad idea because it’s gives you less time to be with your children, at this time of such economic uncertainty it’s hard for kids to move out, maybe when you’re kids are moving out the economy will be back, but the way big business keeps bribing the government I don’t think it will be. So what happens? The moment they get their career on track you move into a retirement village?
    Your future grandchildren will have the memories that I do: You go to see grandma every now and then while she sits comatose in her wheelchair until she dies when you’re seven. It sucked, I want to have a grandmother, or at least have some good memories of my grandmother.

    I’m not trying to say have kids before you’re ready, but most people are ready long before their forties.

    • http://fairlyoddmedia.com/ Frances Locke

      Good points! I had my oldest at 19. I wasn’t exactly ready, but I made it work, and made it work well, if I do say so myself. I was more than ready when I had my younger two, and I had them both before 30. I don’t think there is anything wrong with starting a family later though, and I hated the condescending way this lady went about “warning” women about the dangers of later pregnancies. As if it’s not something that’s been out there for decades.

      It annoys me that no one is telling men to reign in their careers to their partners can have kids, too.

    • Emmali Lucia

      I know, there was a study showing that men over the age of 40 have an increased risk of having children with autism. Why is that not cited over and over again?

    • Wendy

      I totally get this. I have absolutely zero memories of my father that don’t involve him using a cane… when my (much) older siblings can remember him doing fun things like roller skating faster than they could. Now my oldest child has no memories of him without a walker, and my youngest, no memories without a wheelchair (and in a nursing home). This amazing, great man that everyone else knew and loved is reduced to a shell of what he once was, and that’s all my children will ever know. People that *choose* to wait on purpose until late in life make me furious, and I know someone’s going to downvote me for saying that. But I have lived it. And it sucked. I guess at least I had a dad :)

    • JAN

      My parents had me when they were 21 and 23, yet my Dad had a heart attack in his 30′s (he worked out and was slender but smoked two packs a day) so having youngish parents still doesn’t offer any guarantees. I had an Uncle who had his last (of seven kids) at 43 and he’s still incredibly active. There’s just no guarantees.

    • Aldonza

      Yeah, my parents were 35 when they had me, and I had all four of my grandparents until 4 years ago when both my grandfather’s died, but my 91 year old grandma still lives by herself in an apartment, drives (though not at night) and keeps a more active social calendar than I do, while the other one only just moved into assisted living over the summer. I’m 31. My fiance, whose parents had them early, didn’t know his two grandfather’s because they died very young and his Dad’s Mom died while he was still a child. There’s no guarantee of anything.

    • Wendy

      I know; you’re right. There are no guarantees. It totally can work out either way. But the chances of good health go down with age just generally. And the burden to help parents in their “old age” hits children while their own children are very young. Whereas for my older siblings, their children are all graduating high school/in college/able to be self sufficient.

    • Emil

      The problem is many of us really don’t have the luxury of choosing which decade to have children in. We wait until it is feasible (financially, have a suitable partner etc.) and for some that doesn’t happen until later. Do you really think people should pass on having kids just because they missed the optimal window?

  • EX

    So here’s what I don’t get – there is always this notion in articles like this that there are all these high-powered career women out there who could have a baby whenever they want but choose to wait because their careers are so important to them. I’m sure women like this exist but I don’t know any. The women I know who didn’t have kids until their late 30s (or who wanted kids but never had them) simply didn’t meet their partner until later in life. And for those women, like me, it’s annoying to hear this stuff because it feels like we’re being judged for not having found our partner sooner (or for not lining up a sperm donor whilenwe were single). Like being single (more or less) until your 30ish wasn’t bad enough…

    • NeuroNerd

      I completely agree, and I’d like to add that women who postpone childbearing are so often painted as “selfish” career women in powerful jobs when really, they’re midlevel workers who are trying to reach a point of economic stability.

    • Rachel Sea

      I thought I would start trying to get pregnant at 26, a year after I married. The economy had the poor taste to tank that year, so that both my wife and I were laid off, and spent the 18 months deciding which bill to ignore that month. I was 29 when we were able to start trying, and I just turned 32, still no pregnancy. Maybe if we had started when I was 26 it would have worked, maybe not, but we didn’t have the choice…unless rent or food or electricity is a choice.

    • OhHeyDelilah

      Yep, I love this notion of ‘Women are having babies too late!’ Okay, great – supposedly we should all have kids at 25 – but, um, who are we supposed to have them with?! Most women I know aren’t in a stable/successful/likely-to-last relationship at that age, and if they have a partner of a similar age, HE’S usually not rushing to have a family either. And last time I checked, raising a kid to adulthood was pretty darn expensive, so who’s going to pay to raise that child if you (generic you, not you personally) are in a financially unstable situation or a shitty relationship that falls apart, leaving you as a single parent with even less means to support yourself and your kid?

      So really, okay, we can talk about ‘ideal world’ scenarios where everyone would have babies when they were in their biological prime, and everyone would do it with loving and committed partner when they were in a stable financial situation. But it’s not an ideal world. All this crap about women being selfish because they wait ‘too long’ to have kids just gets grating after a while – people seem to think that we just ‘forgot’ to have kids because we were too busy drinking cocktails and getting pedicures and posting stuff on Facebook. If only it were that simple!

  • CW

    Didn’t she read the recent article in the “Atlantic Monthly” about how women 35-39 actually have greater fertility than popularly believed? That something like 80% of white women who are at a healthy weight will conceive within 6 months without any need for fertility treatments?

    • Emmali Lucia

      Wasn’t that the study that showed that the most couples actually had their timing off when trying to conceive?

    • March

      Exactly. It said something like, “Best to have your first baby before your 40th birthday. After that you’ll be rolling the dice, but there’s still a chance they’ll come up six”, or similar. And an even more important point made in that article, which I wish someone would tell this Prof Herbert in her face, was: DON’T SWEAT IT. DON’T PANIC. You will probably be fine, whenever you choose to have a baby, if you use your common sense.

  • Elise

    Well yes, fertility decreases and eggs age as you age. But to have a baby, you also need a man to provide the sperm. Most women want an actual partner to do it with. Why do people assume that women are spending their 20s and 30s focusing on a career and that alone is the reason they are not having kids. When really it seems to be more often that they just haven’t found a suitable partner to have a baby with. I don’t know why that fact in the situation is always ignored.

    • AP

      And women who have found a partner can’t necessarily swing having a baby, either. I ran the numbers on this recently, and it turns out that my husband and I truly wouldn’t be able to afford a baby unless he/she popped out of the womb with a standard starting salary plus full benefits.

  • NeuroNerd

    So I’m a med student, and I had a lecture on this today.

    Apparently, the risk of chromosomal abnormalities increases very gradually, beginning at puberty up until age 40, when it rapidly spikes. The risk of miscarriage from invasive prenatal screening procedures (e.g. amniocentesis) remains relatively constant. At age 35, the likelihood of a chromosomal abnormality has just become greater than the risk of miscarriage, so this is why 35 is defined as advanced maternal age.

    But really, 40 is the “scary” number in terms of absolute risk of chromosomal abnormalities, and of course, that will differ from woman to woman, based largely on genetics and, to a lesser extent, environment.

    • pontificatrix

      That’s oversimplified. (I had that lecture in med school too but it isn’t right.) Risk of miscarriage from amniocentesis varies enormously – it’s really dependent on the practitioner. That said, miscarriage rates from amnio have been going down for years. The idea that the amnio-induced-miscarriage line crosses the detectable-chromosomal-abnormality line at 35 is based on data from the 1970s. It’s not true in any real-world sense but the convention that AMA starts at 35 has remained.

      Nonetheless, pregnancy-related difficulties like pre-eclampsia and HELLP do rise dramatically with age, and are much more common than the chromosomal abnormalities that older mothers tend to worry about.

      Also if you look at the Down’s rates as a proxy you’ll find that the risk of Down’s starts at around 1/1200 and crosses 1/1000 around 30, but triples to 1/300 by 35 and then triples again, to 1/100, by 40. So the bend in the curve there really is somewhere around 35.

      http://www.mothers35plus.co.uk/down.htm

  • Annie

    HOW IS KITTY KAT FORMED?

    I don’t plan on popping any out until *at least* 30, which means probably a lot later. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, lady.

  • TwentiSomething Mom

    Yea and when these high powered career women have kids, good luck trying to go back to work, pay for child care and not deal with asshole coworkers saying things like “who told you to have kids?” when you try to adjust your schedule to come in an hour early or work through your lunch so you can get home at a reasonable hour.

    Someone said this about another coworker who happens to be a single dad so he could see his kids twice a week while still working full time and weekends.

  • http://www.cafepress.com/ladycrim ladycrim

    I’m 36, so guess I missed my window. Oh, well.

  • sasareta

    What if you don’t want kids?