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The worst thing you can say to a woman wanting to get pregnant? Hurry it up.

A researcher in the UK wants women to be aware of the number ’30’.

I woke up this morning to yet another story in the media warning women to have babies earlier rather than later.

A fertility expert has written a stern letter to the British Education Secretary saying teens should should be taught fertility lessons and warned about the dangers of leaving parenthood too late, told that having a baby before 30 is ideal and that IVF is creating an unnecessary burden on the public health system.

Let’s set aside whether the education system should be responsible for lecturing kids about when they should start a family. Let’s set aside the fact that in Australia, unlike the UK, IVF is basically free for couples having trouble having a baby (the ‘burden on the tax payer’ argument, if it is an argument, is far less relevant here).

Let’s just look at the usefulness of the message.

As a researcher who has spent the last decade listening to Australian women talk about their lives, let me assure you:

We are all well f*cking aware of this.

children before 30
Celine Dion fell pregnant with twins aged 42. Image via Twitter.

Gen X women – women of my generation – were the first and the last cohort of Australian women to grow up falling foul of declining fertility issues.

Our mothers – the Boomer generation – might have grown up with second wave feminism but many of them were married with kids by the time they were 25, well before the supposed 30-something deadline.

Their daughters – Gen Xer’s- were more educated, amibitious and didn’t go through their 20’s with the newspapers and pundits screaming at them daily about their ageing eggs.

The discussion groups of young women I have conducted in the last five years in particular show today’s 20-somethings are under no illusions about being able to pop out bubs in their 40s. We denigrate these young women, thinking they are dumb enough to think ‘if celebrities can have babies in their 40’s, well so can I’.

Twenty-something women now talk pretty honestly and regularly about their fertility concerns. I have heard them discuss egg freezing when they are as young as 22. So these kind of stories all just increase the already intense pressure they feel in their 20s about doing it all before 30 – education, travel, the right partner, marriage, the mortgage and the first baby. All before they hit the big three-zero.

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Sonia Kruger became a mother at 48.

Some of the conversations I’ve heard among young women on this issue verge on frantic: I won’t be able to have babies after 30!

It’s really not that dire. It can be harder, but it happens all the time.

One of the possible outcomes I worry about with this panic over fertility is that young women might decide to get married and have kids before they are ready and with the wrong person. Who you raise a child with might well be as important as whether you have one at all.

That leads me to the too often ignored part of all this … the sperm providers – aka the other half of the population, aka men.

So much of this public hectoring about fertility is about women and their choices. Women are delaying motherhood. Women are relying on IVF. Women’s eggs are turning green like a Doctor Suess book (I do not like them Sam I Am!).

children before 30
Author, Rebecca Huntley. Image via YouTube.

Where is the expert, politician, talking head or pundit prepared to take Australian men to task on this?

Yes, yes, I know women’s fertility declines earlier than men’s. And yes if you are a guy who wants to burn through women in their 20’s and 30’s before deciding on parenthood at 40, then opt for a woman in her reproductive prime, be my guest.

But if you love or intend to love and have babies with someone closer to your age, then shouldn’t the warnings about fertility be directed equally at your sex? If you are a man in his 20s, in love with a woman the same age and intending to have children with that person, perhaps you’d benefit from understanding more about what woman go through with infertility and IVF.

Forget preachy letters to politicians about taxpayers’ money and seminars to teens about having babies.

Australian women know all this.

And it’s about time men did too.

Want more? Try this:

This is Mel Greig IVF journey. She asks all the questions.

Wendy Squires writes about the stories of women who get IVF over 40.

IVF clinic to bulk bill, will save thousands for hopeful parents.

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