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Women blaming and babies

September 25th, 2005

Dr Petra

The front page of today’s Sunday Telegraph leads with a story about women ‘increasingly seeking inappropriate IVF treatment because they do not have the time or inclination for a sex life and want to “diarise” their busy lives’.

Really?

This is the second wave of a recent series of articles laying into older women for not getting pregnant.

A week ago the media reported on research from the British Medical Journal that was critical of women getting pregnant aged 35 and over.

In reporting that story many papers took the stance that women were deliberately, negligently and irresponsibly delaying their fertility. Even the author of the study criticised the ‘have it all’ women who were apparently putting their careers ahead of their fertility.

The latest report in the Sunday Telegraph targets women who’ve delayed getting pregnant and require IVF as a result. Although the paper acknowledges most of these women are paying for their IVF, it’s nevertheless critical of women opting for this treatment. Underpinning the piece is a negative subtext that career women (boo-hiss!) are selfish or bad.

The feature makes it sound like an epidemic of older women are demanding IVF, although no research, data or additional information aside from a selection of observations from a few doctors is provided to support the story.

Why is our press currently so keen on women blaming? Worse still, why are women writing many of these stories? Whether you’re a teenage mum or older mother you get criticised for being irresponsible or ignorant. If you’re a teen your ‘punishment’ is a baby when you’re supposedly still too young to manage, if you’re an older mum your lot could be not getting pregnant at all. No mention is ever made within these stories about the role of the father within pregnancies – older or younger dads aren’t targeted at all.

Worse still, in the case of older mums, few news stories are looking seriously at this issue. Many women nowadays risk losing their career if they get pregnant during their twenties. Maternity leave, career breaks, a guaranteed job when you return after having a baby (with no penalties) and childcare for working mums has not been adequately addressed.

Many women would probably like to have children at an earlier age but current occupational and economic factors prevent them from doing so.

It’s amazing that if a man works at his career he’s praised for it, but nowadays women who want a career and a child, particularly later in their fertile years, are criticised for being silly or selfish.
Incredible given that the days of couples living on a single income has long gone.

Perhaps instead of getting at older mums, the media could do well to campaign for parental rights, affordable childcare, and realistic maternity and paternity leave. If women felt they had more options perhaps they’d feel more able to have babies earlier and enjoy them without the press and health professionals making them feel guilty.

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