Tuesday, June 02, 2015
NHS chief warns women not to wait until 30 to have baby as country faces a fertility timebomb
One of Britain’s top NHS fertility specialists last night issued a stark warning to women: Start trying for a baby before you’re 30 – or risk never having children.
In a strongly worded letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, consultant gynaecologist Professor Geeta Nargund has also demanded that teenagers are taught about the dangers of delaying parenthood, because of the spiralling cost to the taxpayer of IVF for women in their late 30s and 40s.
Professor Nargund cites the agony of a growing number of women left childless as a key reason why fertility lessons must be included in the national curriculum. Her controversial intervention – in which she warns Britain faces a ‘fertility timebomb’ – will fuel the debate over the best time to start a family, amid the rise in women delaying motherhood to pursue careers.
In the letter, seen by The Mail on Sunday, Prof Nargund writes: ‘I have witnessed all too often the shock and agony on the faces of women who realise they have left it too late to start a family.
‘For so many, this news comes as a genuine surprise and the sense of devastation and regret can be overwhelming. ‘And so often the cry will be “Why did no one warn me about this?”’
Fertility issues placed a ‘costly and largely unnecessary burden on the NHS’, she said, warning that the IVF bill ‘looks set only to increase’. Hundreds of millions is already spent on IVF, with each treatment ‘cycle’ costing around £5,000.
Arguing passionately for fertility lessons, she tells Mrs Morgan: ‘Information is power and the best way to empower people to take control of their fertility is through education.’ Prof Nargund said last night: ‘Ideally, if a woman is ready for a child, she should start trying by the time she is 30. She should consider having a child early because as a woman gets older, her fertility declines sharply.’
She said: ‘A lot of women think they can just delay motherhood, have IVF and it will all be fine.’
If a woman started trying early enough, doctors would still have time to diagnose problems and take action before it was too late, she said.
Her comments were endorsed by Professor Allan Pacey, outgoing chair of the British Fertility Society.
‘You need to be trying by 30 because if there is a problem and you need surgery, hormones or IVF, then you’ve got five years to sort it out,’ he said. ‘If a woman starts trying at 35, doctors have got to sort it out when she is already on a slippery fertility slope’.
He went even further on educating youngsters on fertility, saying pupils should receive ‘age appropriate’ information from primary school to university.
Prof Nargund, lead consultant for reproductive medicine at St George’s Hospital in London and medical director of the private Create Fertility clinics in the UK said: ‘As women get older, they experience more complex fertility problems, so treatment tends to be less successful and more expensive.
‘On average, more [IVF] treatment cycles are required for a successful pregnancy. So educating people about fertility is very important for the public purse, because it will help us to get more babies within the same NHS budget.’
Egg quantity and quality is frequently the problem, she said, particularly among women in their late 30s and 40s.
In such cases, IVF is usually necessary. But there can be other factors at play, such as poor blood flow to the ovaries or uterus.
Prof Nargund and colleagues have helped pioneer diagnostic approaches using ultrasound scans and other tests to discern the problem before rushing to pricey IVF.
The cost is considerable: The NHS funded 25,571 IVF cycles in England and Wales in 2013, or 41 per cent of the total.
The average success rate is just one live birth per four cycles – meaning each IVF baby costs the taxpayer around £20,000. But the chance of IVF success falls rapidly with age, with only one in eight cycles being successful in women aged 40 to 42 using their own eggs.
The average age women give birth is now 30, according to the Office of National Statistics, which has cited more women going to university and pursuing careers as a key reason for older mothers.
With one in six couples now having trouble conceiving and the birth rate among UK-born mothers in long-term decline, Prof Nargund said Britain faced a ‘fertility timebomb’ that had to be addressed.
‘We can’t rely on net immigration to increase the country’s birth rate,’ said Prof Nargund, who moved to the UK from India as a medical student in the 1980s. ‘It’s not a permanent fix.’
Now 55, Prof Nargund started a family with her husband at 29, even though she was a busy junior doctor at the time, saying: ‘My biological clock was absolutely on my mind.’
Many young people were surprisingly poorly informed about the impact of age on fertility, she said. Neither did they know that smoking, too much alcohol, taking drugs, or being too fat or too thin negatively affected the chances of conception. She added: ‘Educated women are not necessarily educated about their fertility.’
A Department for Education spokesman said: ‘Sex and relationship education is compulsory in all maintained secondary schools. ‘We also expect academies and free schools to deliver relationship education. ‘We trust schools to ensure the education they provide meets the needs of particular students. As such, they are free to talk about fertility or any other relevant issues.’
I want my daughter to know that she can never 'have it all’
My generation focused on careers – with tragic consequences for some. So I applaud new, hard-hitting advice on the best time to have a baby
Lately, I have been thinking about my character, after listening to David Brooks, American author of the best-selling The Road to Character, speak eloquently about ''resumé values vs eulogy values’’. With a pang, I recognised that I had led my early life with only my CV in mind. I sought an interesting career, status, money and an influential network, and honed traits like grit and ambition (not to mention self-centredness and competitiveness).
In my defence, I can plead that I was the product of my times: in the Eighties and Nineties, educated women like me were told by teachers, the media and – more than anyone – our mothers that it was work, above all else, that offered us the route to independence, success and self-confidence. Never before had so many professions been opened to women. Our generation should not waste this exciting and unprecedented opportunity.
I took up the challenge with relish, and careered towards my goals. But in the year I turned 40, I filmed a documentary for the BBC on fertility that left me devastated: one of the experts I interviewed told me bluntly that I had left childbearing so late that I’d only have a baby through IVF. I stumbled out of his clinic and burst into tears, blaming everyone but Myself. Why had no one warned me that a work-centred life carried the risk of childlessness?
The doctor was proved wrong and I conceived naturally, at 43. I was, I know, incredibly lucky, but I would certainly have liked to have had more children. That wasn’t possible. The near-miss shook my faith in our work-centred culture and our resumé values: I won’t be giving my daughter the same advice I received. I will advise her to study hard and get into university, yes. But I’ll tell her that once graduated, she should work on establishing the foundations for her personal as well as professional life. I will advise her that without a single-minded focus on her job in her twenties, she risks forgoing a brilliant career. But I will explain, too, that if she pursues her professional life at the expense of her personal one, she risks being childless. Better compromise on the six-figure salary, which she can still hope to attain if she returns to work after the birth. A baby – despite all the progress in assisted reproduction techniques – only comes easily until 30.
In 2015 it is a lot easier to convince Izzy of the danger of delaying childbirth than it would have been back in my day. When Bridget Jones in 1995 agonised about her biological clock going tick-tock, she was playing her singleton paranoia for laughs: few scientists had raised the alarm about postponing childbirth back then. The billion-pound industry in assisted reproduction techniques was just being conceived; working women worried about breaking the glass ceiling, not forgoing the pastel-coloured nursery.
Today, fertility experts routinely regale us with statistics regarding a woman’s fertility, and its rapid decline once she’s past 35. Now, Professor Geeta Nargund has added her voice to theirs. The lead consultant for reproductive medicine at St George’s Hospital in London is reported to have written to the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, urging schools to teach teenagers the real facts and figures about age and reproduction. ''Ideally, if a woman is ready for a child, she should start trying by the time she is 30.’’
Her comments have triggered a row, with parents worrying that sex education – after teaching generations that pregnancy is something to safeguard against – will now instead promote baby-making.
Helen Fraser, chief executive of the Girls’ Day School Trust, has responded by saying: ''The threat of infertility should not be used as a stick to beat women into reproducing early.”
But Prof Nargund has a point. From an ever earlier age, youngsters are taught the facts about sex and reproduction and how to avoid pregnancy. As teenagers they are being conditioned to see childbirth only as a barrier to happiness and prosperity. Yet, while having a baby can indeed blight the prospects of a teenage mother, they should also know that having a baby when she’s ready for it is a cause for celebration
We urgently need Prof Nargund’s prompt: my generation’s utilitarian approach attached far greater importance to what we do than who we are. If I can point to the corner office, the CEO title, the fat monthly cheque, no one can question my purpose. I have achieved, therefore I am. Women, especially, find this logic seductive. We have only recently been welcomed at the boardroom table. It seems perverse to question the rewards we have just started to enjoy.
But for too many, a place on the Board has come at the price of having children. More than a fifth of women born between 1960 and 1968 who went on to graduate had no children, according to the Economic and Social Research Council Centre for Population Change. Those who did have children had fewer than their peers who did not go on to further education. Professor Ann Berrington, who led the study, spoke of the ''mismatch’’ whereby ''[graduate] women do not have as many children as they intended’’. Getting to the top requires total immersion; many – too many? – of my generation accepted this and kept their heads down, while a female colleague who took time off to raise a family found it difficult to return to the same job prospects. Professional women sensed that in a man’s world they had to play the man’s game – with no gaps, no breaks. When they finally attained their goal, they looked up to find it was too late to conceive.
Many of the amazing breakthroughs in assisted reproduction – from IVF to frozen eggs – falter in the over-thirties. As the tough-talking Prof Nargund outlined, older mothers need far more IVF cycles and are subject to more complications than their younger counterparts. This alone should make the Government sit up and take notice: each cycle costs £5,000 on the NHS, which already has spent millions on fertility treatments for women in their thirties and forties.
In her comments, Helen Fraser spoke wisely when she said that she did not like the phrase ''having it all’’. “It makes a girl feel that when she leaves university she has to make a decision between having a full and rewarding career or a wonderful relationship and children.” I agree. I will teach my daughter never to use the phrase “having it all” – because it is impossible to have it all. It is impossible to chase professional success without compromising on the personal front. When that compromise is measured in the hours you did not spend with your 11-year-old, the dilemma is painful enough; when that compromise is never having had her in the first place, it is unbearable.
I want my daughter and her friends to learn now that is impossible to live their lives by resumé values and expect a eulogy at the end of it that celebrates an existence that was truly fulfilled.
As harsh as it sounds, for those young women who may want children, planting the seeds of fear of childlessness forces them to look beyond their careers. Prof Nargund has done us a favour.
Realistic lady in trouble with the feminists
Davina McCall is an English television presenter
Davina McCall has beckoned a social media uproar after advising women that keeping that they should work hard at keeping their men sexually happy or face being cheated on.
The brunette beauty, who has been married to Matthew Robertson for 15 years, said in an interview with the Telegraph that matching underwear is on her list of keeping her spouse happy.
'Matthew has strong views on underwear,' she told the newspaper, adding: 'You must keep your husband satisfied in the bedroom department, even if you’re absolutely exhausted. Otherwise he will go somewhere else.'
Within hours of the interview being published, Davina faced an avalanche of criticism on Twitter, as a number of users made it clear that they disagreed with her sentiments.
'The problem [with] articles like this is that it puts responsibility entirely on women [and] ignores their sexual agency,' wrote one woman. Another tweeted: 'Don't know how much of this is true but if it is I feel deeply sorry for her. What a horrifying message to send.'
Other users took to Twitter to point out that men were also not painted in the best of lights, per the advice that was given.
'What complete trash is this,' ranted one male user. 'Men are not animals and women do not exist to serve and pleasure them.'
Realising the controversy she had created, Davina tweeted on Sunday evening that she would soon be clarifying her comments.
She wrote: 'For all you ladies up in arms about my "satisfying my husband comment" I shall be writing a blog so u can all pipe down... !! Xx'
Sure enough, two hours later, she returned with a post clearing up any misconceptions over her choice of words.
She wrote: 'Argggghhhhhh! I've got myself in a controversy!!!! In the paper this weekend I talked about a couple of things that I would like to explain further...
Firstly, I do like to wear matching underwear... no biggy... I don’t do it for Matthew... I do it for me.
'If I want to feel hot and sexy I wear nice undies... if I'm at work, and for practicality, I wear really boring ones... but always matching.
'Right, next… my husband…I do not submit to my husband, nor does he submit to me. My mum said, to keep your man happy, stay intimate. Sometimes, especially when the kids were very young and I was super tired, this was the last thing on my mind… has he ever coerced or pressured me? NO!!! But have I ever started feeling tired and finished feeling very happy? Yes!!'
She previously told the Mail On Sunday that their relationship has been her greatest achievement. The brunette beauty said: 'For any man to be married to a famous woman, it doesn’t matter what you do or where you are in life, it’s a big ask.
'And also for my husband to have endured quite a few years of being called Mr McCall when his name is Mr Robertson – that is a kick in the nuts.'
Welcome to the OTHER Londonistan: London, Canada
If a tree falls in the Forest City and the London Free Press doesn’t report it, did it really fall? Well, if reporting about this fallen tree is unflattering to Liberals, Socialists, unionists and/or Jihadists, then . . . what tree?
Welcome to Londonistan, Canadian edition. We may not be as populous as Britain’s Londonistan, but Canadians have a reputation for punching above our weight and London is no exception. Our tolerance for Jihadists gets results!
Here’s a small sampling of Islamist activity the LFP didn’t bother spilling much ink over.
In 2011, Revenue Canada shut down the London, Ontario operation of a Gaddafi affiliated charity, World Islamic Call Society (WICS) run by Assem Fadel. Fadel was the former President of London’s Islamic Centre of Southwest Ontario, and remains on the Mosque Executive in “Human Resources”. The “charity” quietly raised funds which were then funneled to terrorist organizations around the world through Fadel’s personal bank account.
Fadel wasn’t the only Londoner involved with WICS as reported by Pointe de Bascule; “In spite of his leadership position in the terror-funding Libyan WICS, Munir el-Kassam was appointed chaplain of the London Police Service in 2011.” Perhaps if the LFP had bothered to inform Londoners, el-Kassam’s Chaplaincy appointment might have received the scrutiny it deserved.
Also involved with WICS was London doctor, Wael Haddara, “an advisor to Muslim Brotherhood-backed Egyptian President Morsi”. During the heady days of Arab Spring jubilation in 2010, before it became obvious that this revolution was nothing to celebrate, we might have forgiven the LFP for sub-titling the article they finally wrote about Haddara, “Our Man in Egypt”. But, the LFP story didn’t appear until 2013, begging the question, “who were they kidding?”
With the generosity of Saudi/Wahhabi oil money, Huron University College established a Chair in Islamic Studies attracting Ingrid Mattson, former President of the Islamic Society of North America, to the London-Windsor Community Chair. Mattson is a convert who has cavorted with some of the biggest names in Islamism although you wouldn’t know it from the scant but flattering coverage the LFP gave her appointment.
Converts remind me of reformed smokers in the zeal they bring to their new religion often identifying with more radical elements. Reformed smokers don’t just eschew cigarettes for themselves but would happily execute any smoker who doesn’t join them.
Who can forget the four young Londoners barely out of school, who somehow made their way to an Algerian desert to participate in a deadly terrorist attack on a gas plant? This incident should have had the LFP salivating over the opportunity to dig into the story which could have read like a less wholesome version of The Sandlot; a coming of age story about a young terrorist, laughed at by all the seasoned terrorists until a big shot at the mosque shows him how to properly throw a grenade.
London is also home to tenured French linguistics professor, David Heap. Some may remember his Boat to Gaza adventures which did receive some coverage in the LFP where he appeared as a principled defender of human rights rather than a radical Kaffiyeh wearing supporter of known terrorist organization, Hamas.
According to the latest census released in 2011, 1 in 20 Londoners, identify as Muslim and Arabic occupies the number 2 spot on the Top Ten Non-Official Languages spoken at home. These statistics might help explain “London Ontario’s best kept secrets” and why our local rag doesn’t seem interested in sharing those secrets with others.
If this is the last you hear from me, send CSIS. We don’t have nearly as many trees to hide behind as our Forest City moniker would suggest.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.