It is common in our society to place the blame for childlessness within a marriage on women. We have inherited this belief from our foremothers and forefathers in spite of advances in technology that offer indisputable evidence that in many instances the man is the sterile partner. As if that is not enough, women are oftentimes subjected to unwanted pressure to bear children before they run out of time on their ‘biological clocks’. If one reaches the age of 30 and is still without child, then panic is sure to set in, never mind at age 35 or even 40. The truth is that of all the factors that influence one’s fertility, age is one of the least prominent, and it is time we debunk myths around the issue.
Factors that affect fertility
Conditions that pose a threat to conceiving include endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome, blocked fallopian tubes and early ovarian ageing, but it must be noted that they can happen at any point during a woman’s reproductive lifetime. That is, at any point between puberty and menopause. The main logic that validates having children in our twenties is that at that age our bodies are at their optimal fitness and energy. Another advantage presented by bearing children early is that we diminish our chances of experiencing general age-related health conditions such as diabetes, obesity and decreased cardiovascular reserve.
Having children is no longer a prerequisite for healthy relationships. In the same way it is lately not unusual for a woman to have a child in spite of the absence of a partner in her life.
Nonetheless, if a woman who generally maintains a consistent exercise routine and is cognisant of her health decides to have a child post age 35, she should be just fine. Granted, she would have to put in more effort and preparation than someone younger than her or she might have to deliver via C-section, but she will be fine.
Times are changing
During the early 20th century people lived in rural settings that relied on animal husbandry and crop farming. This meant that it made sense for couples to have large families and to get started early. House chores could be designated to some of the children while the rest supplemented much needed labour in the fields. A large household was indicative of a family’s productivity and prosperity. For modern-day families, however, the size of a family is reliant on financial muscle and choice. Some couples decide against having children entirely, others prefer to adopt even if they are fit to conceive, while some would rather build their careers first and proceed to bear children once they are satisfied with their achievements. Having children is no longer a prerequisite for healthy relationships. In the same way it is lately not unusual for a woman to have a child in spite of the absence of a partner in her life. While the aim for most traditional men is to have an heir, the majority of women simply want someone to absorb the love and nurturing they have to offer, regardless of when the time comes.
The role of contraceptives
Before the arrival of modern pharmaceuticals, Africa had an intimate relationship with nature. Herbs were taken to tackle anything ranging from ailments to the prevention of certain conditions and boosting the immune system. Although it rarely occurred, it was not uncommon for women to apply contraceptive methods. The only condition was that they should not come to the decision without the approval of their husbands.
At this stage in the 21st century, many superstitions are being exposed for all the ways in which they keep people’s minds closed. It is unfair that for most of their lives, women are guilted or manipulated into major life decisions.
These days, as much as the struggle is not over yet, women are enjoying greater freedom that allows them to dictate the terms of their lives without anyone else’s approval. A woman may therefore choose to be on birth control throughout her twenties and all the way into her late thirties, at which time she might feel mature, ready and secure enough to raise a life. While the kind of contraception one uses may be a factor, considering that not all individuals are the same, the duration of use has no significant bearing on one’s ability to conceive.
Myths are kept alive by the mere fact that the urban to rural ratio is still major. If only there were more campaigns to disseminate knowledge evenly to people everywhere, then we would be able to enlighten and empower more people more effectively. At this stage in the 21st century, many superstitions are being exposed for all the ways in which they keep people’s minds closed. It is unfair that for most of their lives, women are guilted or manipulated into major life decisions. If it is not about the choice between children and careers or marriage, it is about the perfect time for childbearing.