Following on from the latest figures from the Office of National Statistics showing that the birth rate in England & Wales is at an all time low, I was invited on to Sky News to debunk the myth of the selfish career woman who forgot to have children.
At 11 babies born per 1000 people, this is the lowest birth rate since records started in 1938; driven largely by falling fertility rates, which are also lower than all previous years since records began.
Sky don't make rolling news available on catchup, but here's a fuzzy iPhone version of the interview:
And for the quick overview, these were the key points I made:
Childless not Childfree
1 in 5 women aged 45 don't have children, but whilst some are childfree by choice, the majority are childless not-by-choice: some due to infertility (like me), but many are childless-by-circumstance - for a multitude of reasons, such as (amongst many others) not meeting the right partner, meeting the right partner but they didn't want children, not being in a financial position to start a family or having caring responsibilities.
It’s not all about women
The most common reason for having IVF is male factor infertility (37% of IVF cycles are due to sperm issues) - and with sperm counts declining at a catastrophic rate, the notion that falling birth rates are all down to women isn't just reductive, but it's pretty misogynistic.
Falling birthrates - good or bad?
Whilst on the one hand lots of environmental organisations are encouraging people to have fewer children in order to save the planet, on the other hand over half the world's countries are below replacement fertility (the fertility rate needed to maintain a society’s population size is 2.1 children per woman) - meaning they're facing a demographic timebomb, where they're aren't enough younger people of working age to pay for an ageing population, which is why so many countries have government campaigns trying to encourage its citizens to have more babies.
The increasing global population is mainly due to people living longer - not only are birth rates declining in many countries, but as developing countries with high birth rates prosper economically and contraception is more widely available, their birth rates will generally trend downwards. So whilst estimates show the global population is on the increase, it's actually projected to nearly stop growing by the end of the century.
Next time someone makes the typical ‘people having IVF are selfish, the world is overpopulated already’ infertility bingo comment, maybe ask them who’s going to pay for their pension?
We also discussed my mission to reclaim the word ‘barren’ , and why it represents resilience and strength of character, and belonging to a sisterhood of some of the bravest, funniest, most kick-ass women you could ever wish to know.
In a recorded interview which went out in the 7pm bulletin, I spoke about the importance of fertility education to help young people better understand how fertility declines with age, and how it’s crucial that boys understand this as much as girls - because it takes two people to make a baby!
I also highlighted that whilst couples may be emotionally ready to start a family, there are many, many practical barriers that may stand in their way - primarily financial, given high rents, the difficulty of getting on the property ladder, and the lack of affordable childcare. Most of this got cut and didn’t make it into the broadcast, but I think these are really important factors as to why it’s not all about selfish career women!