Remember last week’s news about the so-called menopause test, the simple blood draw that will allow a woman to determine her fertility deadline?
Not so fast, says a leading British fertility doctor.
Dr. Gedis Grudzinskas, a top London IVF practitioner, told the UK Guardian that he believes the menopause test is just another way of giving women false hope that they will be able to conceive will minimal assistance as they age.
As Grudzinskas tells the Guardian, not only is the test being oversold, fertility levels are only one component to a successful pregnancy, as the quality of many women’s eggs declines with age. Even assuming a test that could give one the exact date one will reach menopause or how many eggs will still has, “we’re not at the stage we’re a test can tell you how those eggs will function. The number of eggs does not mean the eggs or healthy and normal.”
Moreover, Grudzinskas says he believes many women have a misplaced faith in the fertility industry, something he blames in part on the recent trend of 40something celebrities giving birth, with no one asking whether the children were conceived by donor eggs. “Where do we learn about fertility? TV, the Internet, these fabulous pictures of women in their 40s in Hollywood walking around with babies. Everybody assumes they’re genetically theirs, but they’re not necessarily.”
Grudzinskas says there is no treatment that is “insurance against infertility” and that he would like to see society change so that women can have children in their twenties without damaging their future career prospects.
I have to confess there is a part of me that agrees with the controversial doctor. The fertility industry has become the last place where American women are being sold the myth of having it all. The truth is, of course, more complicated. A decent percentage of us will be able to conceive children with little effort in our late thirties and early to mid forties. Another group of us will be able to do so but with, er, assistance. But many of us, no matter what technology we look into, no matter how many rounds of IVF we endure, will not get pregnant at all.
Yet as someone who had her children the old-fashioned way in her thirties, I am all too aware that taking advantage of certain opportunities permanently closes the door to others, especially for women. It’s not fair and we know it. Ever since the birth of Lousie Brown in 1978, we’ve looked to the fertility industry to fix the injustices of biology and the workplace. It has been an imperfect solution, at best.
Perhaps it’s time to move on. Maybe it is a feminist position to point out, like Grudzinkas says, that women are most likely to get pregnant and give birth to healthy babies in their twenties, not their thirties, forties and beyond. Instead of looking to science to make things equal for us, we need to ask society to accommodate our biology instead.
Perhaps the right to our fertility on our biological timeline is the final feminist frontier.
What do you think?
Photo: Catalan Bogdan