I wonder how many great relationships are sacrificed because of antiquated views and attitudes towards women's age and their fertility levels. Let me elaborate with an example that a member, recently shared. Nina, 40 met Rakesh, 38 on Tinder. They went on a couple of dates and things seem to be going swimmingly well. Acutely aware of many Asian men's ageism mentality, on their third date, Nina decided to broach the subject about their age difference. Rakesh admitted that for the past two weeks he had been trying to work out whether this was an issue for him, or not. It was not the response that Nina was expecting as he knew her age before he asked her out (more than once!). Whilst Rakesh did not come right out and say it, Nina knew what he was really thinking – is this woman going to be able to give me children? This begs the question that whilst the world we live in today has advanced significantly, why haven't some peoples' mindsets? Everything evolves and fertility and reproduction are no exception, let's look at a few examples...
It's a well publicised fact that we're living longer and our bodies are adapting accordingly. The average life expectancy of men is 79.5 and 82.5 for women (source: The Guardian, 2012). Primarily attributed to having access to nutritional food, health care and significantly better hygiene, these factors contribute to healthy women giving birth in their late thirties and into their forties, compared to yesteryears. Yes agreed it's a fact that fertility declines with age but more and more new research indicates that the drop is not as significant as we were previously led to believe; much of which was based on centuries old research. Figures from the ONS (2014) report that the pregnancy rate for over 40s have more than doubled in the past 24 years, which is also mirrored by other research that 1 in 25 babies are now born to mothers aged 40+ (source: createhealth.org).
Advancement in science and technology, which allow for assisted reproduction – egg freezing, egg donation, sperm donation and IVF to name but a few have enabled many couples with fertility challenges to have healthy children, including those in their 20s through to their 40s. Typically, when people think of infertility they associate that with women, however various sources report that in the UK approximately 30% of infertility is attributed to the female partner and wait for it 30% is also attributed to the male partner! The remaining 40% is attributed to a combination of issues with both partners. It's all too easy and common for men to judge a woman's fertility by her age, without actually considering their own fertile health. This is ironic as it takes two to make a baby and research clearly indicates that infertility affects both men and women equally, across the ages.
As a society, surely we have also advanced from the cave man mentality and developed a higher level of emotional intelligence and wisdom? All of which should enable us to be open-minded and not jump to conclusions before seeking out the evidence. According to David James from The National Institute for Heath and Care Excellence (NICE), there is evidence that female fertility is improving. The latest update of the NICE guidelines on fertility state that “the chances of women naturally conceiving at the age of 40 are much higher now than they were when the original guideline was written in 2004".
When it comes to choosing a life partner, surely it's more important to base it on compatibility, rather than a man's belief on whether a woman can bear a child? A study by Emory University (2014) based on 3000 married & divorced couples, found that being the same age, or a year older, makes them 3% more likely to divorce, whereas a 5 year difference makes them 18% more likely to spilt up. Interesting? I thought so and definitely reinforces that being with someone closer to you in age, significantly improves your relationship success, as you're likely to have more shared commonality from cultural reference points to life experiences.
Getting back to the fertility issue, it appears to be common practice for men to have preconceived ideas about a woman's fertility based on her age. The only problem is that this is more often (than not!) based on outdated research and ignorance rather than current facts & trends. Whilst it's each man's prerogative to want to date whomever he wants, falling for someone's potential and what they can bring in the future is a fast road to disappointment, as the future is unpredictable. To illustrate this further, hypothetically even if Rakesh & Nina got a full fertility MOT, which showed all was well, it's impossible to say whether (or not) they would be able to have children with each other, or even with someone older or younger until they tried to conceive...
So Dear Men, unless you're prepared to bring your own fertility report to the table, perhaps it's time to stop judging women so harshly and at least make informed dating decisions based on current fertility research & facts? As for you women, do you really want to be in a relationship, where from the outset your partner is more interested in your fertile health, rather than nurturing your emotional health?Alpa Saujani