I’m as annoyed by those “Have a baby now now now now” stories that periodically crop up in the news as anyone. After all, plenty of us were still in school, launching careers, or completely undecided on the baby question when we were in our twenties. But this story from the Washington Post was a little unsettling, even for me. According to a study from the University of St. Andrews and Edinburgh University published last month, a woman has lost 88 percent of the eggs she was born with by age 30, and 97 percent are gone by age 40.
Researches used a mathematical model as well as data from 325 women to track their potential ovarian reserve. What makes this study news is that it suggests a faster rate of loss at earlier ages than were previously believed.
Of course, 325 women isn’t a huge number and mathematical models aren’t ironclad, but this certainly gives me pause. Essentially, while society has changed enormously in terms of lifespans and women’s ability to determine their own paths in life, our biology has not changed with it. The story includes this very telling quote: “While we may not be mature enough to conceive at a young age, nor should we, that is still when the body is most adept at conception and carrying a baby,” says Claire Whelan, program director of the American Fertility Association. “Our biological clock has not kept pace with our ability to prolong our life spans.”
Carolyn Butler,who wrote the Post article, pointed out that popular culture gives us a ton of mixed messages when it comes to fertility. When you see older celebrities like Jennifer Lopez and Julia Roberts having twins in their 40s and denying any sort of fertility help, it sends the message that getting pregnant in your 40s–or even beyond — is as easy as can be (and I get so irritated when these women just claim that miraculously they got pregnant with twins at 45 or whatever, and oh no, no no, they didn’t have to do fertility treatment. It’s dishonest and insulting, as if fertility treatment is a shameful thing).
What do you think? Would this information have changed your timetable at all? I don’t know that it would have, for me — and I think I’m like most people, who are more ruled by the way life works out than any specific deadline.