Women need to develop reproductive life plans - similar to career and financial planning - to avoid being left childless, Australia's leading fertility expert says.
Professor Robert Norman has called on the Federal Government to provide Medicare rebates to encourage people as young as 18 to establish a plan with their doctor on when they want to have children and how they will achieve it.
"People do things like financial planning and career planning and all of these have consequences for their future, but they don't do any reproductive life planning," Professor Norman, director of the Research Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Adelaide, said.
Now, you may note that a word was missing in that second paragraph: the word if. As in, "if they want to have children."
Also missing from the first three paragraphs: the word men.
Now, it should go without saying that I'm all in favor of people charting their own reproductive destinies in life, and doing so as soon as one is able to have a reproductive destiny. That said, making a decision at age eighteen about your full reproductive destiny is madness. How do you intend to figure out when you want children when you don't know what you want to do with your life? When or if you'll get married? Who your partner will be -- indeed, whether you'll find a partner?
Prof. Norman makes points about waiting "too long" to conceive, and I suppose there's truth in that; if you get married at twenty, you probably want to have kids at age thirty or so, as it gets more difficult as you get older. But that assumes that you meet your soulmate at a time conducive to that schedule. After all, if your plan is to get pregnant no later than thirty, you're not going to pass on the sluggish, loutish man when you're 28 so you can meet the right guy at 33, because zOMG ur eggz iz stale!!1!!
And that's the point, isn't it?
His report, titled Empty cots and silent Spring in an age of plenty: What our lifestyles are doing to our reproductive health, recommends programs to provide counselling and risk assessment to "optimise a person's pregnancy potential".
He said this medical advice would include discussing genetic background, social issues such as career and lifestyle issues, which could impact on them conceiving down the track.
Yes, those pesky "lifestyle" issues (read: getting married after you can legally drink). And those pesky "career" issues (read: women working. At all). Why, it's almost like the good Professor's biggest concerns are all about a woman's reproductive capacity being maximized, at the cost of her ability to live.
And that, of course, is the goal. If at eighteen, you prioritize your life with having children at the top, you'll do what you can to have children. You'll settle for the wrong partner, take the wrong job, and do all the wrong things -- but you'll have your children, by cracky.
On the other hand, if at age eighteen you take a more cautious approach -- live your life to see where it goes, look for a partner who loves you, and who you love, refuse to settle for less than you want -- well, you might end up with no children, or you might have trouble conceiving, whether you're a woman or a man. But you're also more likely, if and when you do conceive, or adopt, or become a foster parent, to be stable, and happy, and good at it. And at age thirty, you're also more likely to know yourself well enough to know whether children are what you want at all.
Of course, you may decide you don't want any, and given the hysterical title of Norman's article, I'm sure that's his fear. If you don't bear your quiverfull of children...well, I'm never quite clear on what happens then. But we're contantly being assured that it's really, really bad.