By coincidence I had seen a program on public television on the topic "desire for children. There were many doctors in the discussion group& Female doctors and there were a lot of fact checks and statistics included. The headline came from this program – and it made me think a lot.
Shortly after that I sat with girlfriends. We all know each other from our school days, are all in our mid-thirties and all live completely different lives. We are seven women, although only two of us (so far) have children. Actually, only I have children, Isa has just had a baby. Also the others would like to become a mother. Sometime. Before that they want to find the right man, make a career, travel around the world. "I don’t want to be a killjoy here, but you know that time is ticking and having children is becoming increasingly difficult?"I ask in the round..
The truth is a slap in the face!
My friend with baby on the arm shoots afterwards "But career and journeys go nevertheless also with child, or?" – thereby she looks naturally at me questioningly. It was a mixture between assertion and question. "After all, we can see from you that it works!" Clear! It all goes with child, but differently halt. How different? "Well, all your priorities shift, a lot of things become a headache, and at some point you decide that some ideas you had before might not quite fit your life after all. It doesn’t have to be Bali then, but a vacation in Denmark suddenly becomes much more feasible for you. Of course Bali is possible, too, but not so easy anymore." – "That’s exactly why I want to wait another year or two, then I can really enjoy it now!" – "I understand that. But what if it doesn’t work out that way?? You are then 37 years old and the probability that you will become pregnant immediately is about 5%. At least if you believe the statistics. And because you don’t have forever, you have to go directly to a fertility clinic." – "That’s easy for you to say, you’ve been together with your boyfriend for ages and became a mother young!- "Yes, I’m sitting in a glass house and throwing stones right now. Sorry. But basically I just want you to know that of course it can just work out. But when I look at my environment – for many it has been a long way, which was also often stressful. I think we should at least talk here about the fact that it might not be easy-peasy. No question about it. But it may be a longer way than you think." This is how the conversation continues. We have known each other for almost twenty years and can speak very openly and often relentlessly with each other. But still we all go home agitated. After all, this is not really an easy topic and most of us successfully suppress it. Until the time comes when you try to get pregnant and it doesn’t work out. Many try for a year and only then go to the doctor, but since women are getting older until they decide to have children, business is booming at fertility clinics.
The next day my friend Nina calls me up. She hit the conversation the hardest because she’s single and just can’t find the man for life, let alone have children – but has longed for a family and children for much longer than any of us have. "Is it really so blatant with fertility?" she asks me. What should I answer? Yes it is, I guess I would have to answer – now that I know the numbers and statistics. But it’s damn hard. Finally, I tell her that a dear former colleague of mine had her first child at 45. That she was also in a fertility treatment. But she also had two miscarriages. And they were not easy to digest. She ended up having a baby thanks to modern medicine, but it also came at a price. Maybe it would have worked out somehow without help, but then it really would have been winning the "lottery". And of course, one does (almost) everything to clearly improve one’s chances with such an important topic or?
To the facts
Nature is not merciful with us women. While men lose about 1% of their sperm per year after puberty, the situation is unfortunately much worse for women.
Mothers today are on average just under 30 years old when they have their first child. According to medicine it is "almost a lottery win, if a woman gets pregnant without any help at all."(Note: With me it has nevertheless worked out naturally, despite PCO syndrome!)
A look at the numbers:
- The number of eggs is limited
- From birth, a girl has about 400.000 oocytes that are constantly degrading and not forming anew
- At the age of 20 there are only 100.000 eggs.
- At 30 years it about 35.000 eggs.
- At the age of 40, every second woman is already infertile.
These numbers are quite frightening. The fact that we women are often so far removed from reality and that there is generally so much ignorance on this subject is mainly due to the fact that we simply do not want to confront ourselves with it. Who wants to deal with the question of whether to freeze eggs in their early twenties?? You don’t think about whether you can get pregnant or not, you just assume that you can. According to a study by the Ministry of Family Affairs, a good 45% of familyless women between the ages of 35 and 41 have no doubts about fertility. And even between the 40- and 50-year-olds, just under 27 % believe that they are still fertile.
A social problem
That I was called a "young mother" when I had my first child at the age of almost 30 (at least in Berlin) is a fact. According to the Federal Statistical Office, I am perfectly in line with the national average, because the average age of the mother at the first child is exactly 29.6 years. Quite late, if you keep an eye on the fertility figures. But what are the reasons why we have children so avoidably late today? Is it only because of the career desire of the woman? That "woman" wants to realize herself before having children? Or is it rather the men who often delay the woman’s desire to have children? Or is it that today we find it harder to commit early? (Here at no point a judgment, but rather a few – admittedly somewhat provocative – questions)
In my eyes, today’s society does not support women (or rather, it does not support women). young people) to have children early today and at the same time condemns them if they become parents late in life. A situation that builds up enormous pressure and definitely lets Germany fail as a child country. Set, Six!
And so the number of "old mothers" (what a terrible term) is increasing. According to the German Federal Statistical Office, in 1997 about 13.500 women who were at least 40 years old gave birth to children, in 2014 it was already over 35.000 women. There has been a particular increase in the number of women who have given birth at over 45 years of age. It’s great that this is possible in this day and age. For my part, I would like all people to be able to fulfill their desire to have children, but at the same time I find this development sobering. Especially because the effort to get pregnant at over 40 is so enormous: fertility treatments, artificial insemination, miscarriages, enormous emotional and physical strain, not to mention the financial..
And now I’m coming around the corner again with a few facts and figures!
Artificial insemination means that eggs are collected and either mixed together in the laboratory or injected into the egg. If the fertilization of one or more eggs is successful, embryos of the mother are implanted into the uterus.
But now the numbers are added according to statistics:
-> Only 28% of women get pregnant after artificial insemination!
-> Only 20 % of the women give birth!
-> Also, the likelihood of childbirth decreases rapidly with age.
With a 42 year old woman the probability of a birth after artificial insemination is only 9%, with 44 years only less than 4%.
I don’t want to stir up fear, but I think it’s important to talk about all this. Because only by knowing the facts, the probability and the challenges, we might have a chance to change our society in the future. Because our second problem – and I see this as a really much bigger problem: Unfortunately, women and men are not sufficiently accompanied in the often emotionally stressful process. They are not well prepared, not mentally strengthened, they often do not have the environment to talk about it, are seldom supported and often have the feeling that they have to cope with this pressure alone. In our society, where it is so normal to have children "late", the process involved is unfortunately swept under the carpet. But what that means for the many people who don’t have an easy path here is simply ignored.
I am glad that medicine makes so much possible for us. I think that is also important. Nevertheless, I would wish to live in a society where it is not only normal to start a family in one’s early or mid-twenties, but one where it is encouraged just as much as it is at a later age. And if someone tries to kill me with the argument "If I would have had a child with my boyfriend from 10 years ago… then we would be separated now…", I’m not going to do it!" I can only counter that there is never a guarantee after all. How many people do I know who have a child in their mid-thirties and it doesn’t work out for them either?! And who knows, maybe the relationship would have lasted, because you had the same focus in life at the same time!? Who knows. What I want to say: It should be made easier for us to have children – but above all, we should tolerate and support EVERY way!
I don’t really want to comment on relationships anyway. This may work, or it may not. These are decisions that you have to make for yourself or with each other, no one from the outside can afford to pass judgment. But we’ve covered this topic from pretty much every angle in issues 7 and 8 of the MUMMY MAG Paper.
Nevertheless, how nice it would be to want to start a family in one’s twenties and no longer have to fight against children on arguments alone. It would be desirable for the labor market to make it easier for younger people to have children, when you may not be as financially secure as you are just ten years later. Currently, it is rather "If I can afford children" – and that is in the rarest cases when entering the labor market, let alone during the study or during training so. In principle, this could be a really good approach. Maybe in the future the statistical 1.58 per woman will turn into two children!?
By the way, my friend Nina has meanwhile signed up again on Tinder (the spelling correction makes it "Kinder" by the way – hahaha) and had some very nice dates. Let’s see, maybe soon the right man is there… And if not, there are also many ways to fulfill the desire to have children as a single woman… Here I know numerous arguments against it.
For my part, I can only say that I would like to support EVERYONE who wants to have children – at any age, in any situation in life and on any path. And I think it’s just as true that some people simply don’t want to have children at all – and these people should in no way feel pressured to conform to a societal image. But this is already the transition to another topic..