Whoops-Pregnancies in Your 40s

What Women Really Think
Feb. 9 2010 11:27 AM

Whoops-Pregnancies in Your 40s

It's hard to catalogue the amount of media-books, articles, movies, commercials-dedicated to scaring women about their biological clocks. We're told over and over again that if we wait "too long," then we won't have a man, much less a chance to have a baby. The age at which you're a dried-up hag incapable of performing basic reproductive functions like getting pregnant or attracting a mate varies on the whims of the alarmist- Lori Gottlieb seems to put it at 35 , Kay Hymowitz and Charlotte Allen put it at 28 , and in the era of Jamie Lynn Spears, I'm sure we'll be hearing that if you haven't locked down your marriage-and-or-baby path by 18, you're in grave danger of never getting to the finish line, which all women are presumed to want. Unfortunately, the endless drumbeat about how your ovaries dry up 20 or more years before menopause begins is beginning to affect women's decision-making, according to the Family Planning Association . Women hear, over and over again, that you can't get pregnant after 28 or 35, and they believe it enough to ditch the contraception, with predictable results.

In England and Wales, the abortion rate for women in their early 40s is as high as it is for teenagers. Part of the reason is women in their 40s are more likely to have medically indicated abortions, but a big portion of the abortions are old-fashioned "whoops" abortions. The FPA doesn't have the exact numbers on this, but they have a constant stream of calls from women in their 40s who are facing unintended pregnancy simply because they bought into the story that fortysomething is too old to get pregnant. In fact, the fertility rate for women over 40 has doubled in the U.K. since 1988. I'm sure some of it is because women are putting off child-bearing until later in life, but much of it has to do with the fact that they're constantly told not to.

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Another interesting tidbit from that story: The highest fertility rate in England and Wales is in the 30-34 age range. According to our most hysterical hysterics screaming at women to settle down and start pushing out babies ASAP, you're already over the hill and probably can't conceive at that age. So how on earth did it become the highest bracket for fertility? Could it be that people telling women that unmarried at 28 is "too late" have some sort of anti-feminist agenda?

I don't want to make light of women who really do face declining fertility in their 30s due to very real conditions such as untreated STIs or PCOS. But the best approach to those problems is medical intervention for people who face them, not a generalized guilt trip to settle for someone you don't want and have babies you're not ready to have, regardless of your medical history.

Amanda Marcotte is a Brooklyn-based writer and DoubleX contributor. She also writes regularly for the Daily Beast, AlterNet, and USA Today. Follow her on Twitter.

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