This week, the chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority suggested that there's more to life than having babies. In an interview with the Observer newspaper, Suzi Leather said that the biological clock should not be the determining factor in having a baby. And if you run out of time, well there are other pleasures in life to be had.
This is a concern that many thirty-something women have. Should I wait until I'm really ready to be a mother - when my career is advanced enough, or I've found Mr Right or I just feel ready - or should I do it whilst my chances of getting pregnant are still good? What if I wait too long for things to be perfect and run out of fertile years?
Some have said that the existence of reproductive technologies like IVF is making this situation worse: women think that they can go blithely on and use IVF to have a baby in their forties, but they soon find out that technology can't help. Suzi Leather says that the existence of IVF does not encourage women to ignore their biological clock in the mistaken assumption that doctors will be able to get them pregnant. She's right to say so. People know that IVF is expensive and demanding and often unsuccessful. But, if research can make IVF cheaper, more efficient and more successful, women might start to think of IVF as a way of beating the biological clock.
In many ways, this would be nothing new. We already beat the biological clock through contraception and other methods of fertility control. Such medical advances mean that the right time to have a baby doesn't have to be a question of biology anymore. We're probably going to have to get used to older women, who have risked missing their fertile window in order to achieve other goals in life, seeking medical assistance to have a baby. We can spend as much time as we like educating people about the rate at which fertility declines as we age (and we ought to do it), but, as Suzi Leather says, biology should not be the determining factor for having a child.
When women - and men - do decide that the time is right but need a helping hand, they need safe, effective and inexpensive methods of assisted conception. And, just like younger women undergoing fertility treatment, they need it quickly, without having to sit for years on a waiting list.