I’ve never used any form of contraception, and as a by-product of that, it turns out that I’ve learnt a lot about my body. Because until recently, I didn’t realise that so many young women were so ignorant – to the fact that an irregular monthly cycle might indicate something about their reproductive health; that years of hormonal contraceptives can have a huge negative impact on their bodies; that processes like IVF or egg-freezing don’t work as easy fixes (if they even end up working at all).
As reported by the Chicago Tribune recently, a national survey of childless women in the USA aged 25-45 found that while more than half wanted to have kids one day, just under half didn’t realise the difficulties that can arise post age 35 (and therefore most thought it a good idea for infertility education to be implemented during school education and at Ob/Gyn visits). About half admitted that they would have made different decisions in the past regarding their fertility if they had been more informed.
So why aren’t women getting the information they deserve? One line in the article really stood out to me as a possible answer: “People spend years trying to avoid pregnancy, so it comes as no surprise that there are many misconceptions around one’s reproductive potential.” Basically, society’s emphasis on avoiding pregnancy at all costs has led women to believe that their reproductive abilities are much more infinite and readily available than they really are!
I see it amongst my peers: young women are getting stuck. Media and society encourages a lifestyle in their twenties that involves sex without consequences, multiple sexual partners, regular prescriptions for the pill, and child-free relationships and careers. But then when age 35+ hits along with a settled relationship and often a longing for children, they realise that all these things were not conducive to a healthy fertility – with greater age has come greater complications of fertility, contraception has played havoc with their reproductive system, and multiple partners have infected them with diseases that could hurt their bodies or their unborn child. Really, is this fair to women? Is it fair that such a natural role of motherhood is denied them because they happened to believe what society told them?
It’s frustrating that women are led to believe that we are enjoying such an empowered time – a time in which our bodies are really ours, to do with as we please. Pop a pill a day to suppress your fertility and enjoy a life of freedom! Start contraception so early so that you don’t even have a chance to discover if your reproductive system is even healthy to begin with! And yet with this so-called liberated lifestyle, they still find themselves with limited choices when it does finally come to having kids.
Real freedom means knowledge – not this medicated lie that too many women are living. It’s true that I won’t necessarily agree with how every woman uses her knowledge of her own body and her own fertility, but it’s not my job to judge. I think it is my job, however, to advocate for the fact that every woman deserves to have that knowledge in the first place.