An article in yesterday’s Sunday Times Style section on managing your fertility had me nodding my head at the newspaper. Emma Cannon, a fertility expert, has written a book called Total Fertility: How to Understand, Optimise and Preserve Your Fertility. She echoes something I talked about here (though she is much more eloquent) when she says: “I see a lot of women in their late thirties who are suddenly obsessed by their periods. It’s like making friends with a great-aunt just before she dies, in the hope she might leave you some money, having ignored her all your life. It’s too little, too late.” She says it’s perfectly normal for some women to have babies in their forties and that a lot of fertility problems could be avoided if we grew up understanding our reproductive system and knowing how our actions affect our ability to conceive.
She hopes that the women who buy her book, ie those wanting to conceive now, will then pass it on to a younger sister. Most fertility problems can be prevented early in life and having a baby at 35 shouldn’t be a problem if there are no existing issues. However, with periods regarded as nothing more than an embarrassing inconvenience, we don’t have the self-knowledge we should about our own fertility. We need to be more interested in our menstrual cycles, earlier on – check out painful or irregular periods when they occur, not just when we’re trying to get pregnant, and sort out any gynaecological problems before they become chronic.
A lot of what she says sounds like common sense but the point about openness really struck a chord. I’ve said before how weird I find it that we talk so little about something that happens every month. We need to stop ignoring our fertility and our menstrual cycles (“the external expression of your fertility”) and to be much more open about these things, not just when we’re trying to conceive but over our lifetimes.
According to Cannon, it’s imperative that women should ask about their mothers’ reproductive histories. We should also address sexually transmitted diseases, eg Chlamydia can silently wreak huge damage; avoid drugs, high alcohol consumption and smoking; eat natural, unadulterated food where possible; reduce sugar intake and avoid fizzy drinks; avoid excessive caffeine intake and excessive exercise; watch stress levels; and minimise exposure to environmental toxicity. Some of which is easier said than done granted, but we know we should be doing most of these things.
It really is sad that we only start thinking about this stuff in the waning years of our fertility. I vote that we all grab our nearest young female relations and get them on the fertility case right now.