The Guinea Pig Generation
“We are the guinea pig generation for testing the limits of our fertility, or our chances of having a child. The shock and the lack of preparation when you’re not prepared and the pressure women feel in general about our reproductive selves adds to the shame women feel when they can’t get pregnant,” Selvaratnam said.
She also argues that feminism may have misled Gen X women by avoiding the topic of motherhood and biology. The trend of delaying motherhood was meant to empower women, but ironically it may have boomeranged, leaving scores of women infertile and desperate to have a baby. Selvaratnam believes that we need to reset the conversation and reconcile motherhood with also being an educated, independent, successful woman.
Like birth control, Selvaratnam suggests that information be promoted about fertility and the realities of delaying motherhood. She suggests that every young woman be shown a chart of her overall fertility so she understands when her eggs are best and when the number will start declining. She thinks that with the information, women can be more strategic about trying to get pregnant or at least not be blindsided if they have difficulties because they waited.
The attrition rate of our eggs is startling. Selvaratnam reports that the number of eggs at a girl’s first menstrual cycle is 300,000 to 400,000. By age 30, we’re down to between 39,000 to 52,000, which is about 13% of the eggs we had at puberty. By age 40, we have only 3% of our initial cache of eggs — about 9,000 to 12,000 eggs — and many of these eggs will not be viable.
Ironically, in our uber-sharing age, infertility still remains shrouded in silence. Selvaratnam wants to de-stigmatize miscarriage and infertility and get people connected and talking.
“When women have miscarriages or infertility we feel like failures. I want people to realize how common these issues are. When you see the statistics, it becomes clear you are not alone,” Selvaratnam said. “You look at celebs and think ‘What’s wrong with me?’ when it seems to work out for all of these other people. But the truth is, for most people, it doesn’t work out.”
Selvaratnam is also hoping that her book will be a policy changer. She’s advocating for better health insurance to cover infertility treatments as well as better public education for women. Changing the paradigm for women in the workplace, increasing work-life flexibility and creating more affordable child care, she believes, is also intricately linked with supporting women so they can become mothers. Taking some time off from your career, or easily coming back to your job is a fundamental issue for easing the path for women to have a baby in their late 20s or early 30s — the optimal time for fertility, but often a terrible time to interrupt careers.
“We place so much pressure on women in regard to … their reproductive selves and on their careers. So many women are suffering,” Selvaratnam said. “We need to find ways to advocate, small and big. Instead of judging each other, we should be supporting each other. I want people to look at my story and see and see how they can prevent it from happening to them.”
This article originally appeared on: http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/22/living/pregnancy-big-lie-tanya-selvaratnam-books/