In the second part of a 2 part blog, founder of Babyproofyourlife.com, Caroline Flanagan considers how difficult it is to think about fertility when you’re busy building your career, and asks Fertility Practitioner and Coach, Kate Davies whether fertility preservation is the answer.
We’re back on that topic again. The one with all the question marks, the what ifs and the uncertainties: Baby first and risk your career? Or career first and risk blowing your chances of a family.
Kate is on a roll. She’s frustrated by the pressure women feel to race to the top without regard to their family plans and with how little attention is paid to what that means from a fertility perspective. “Caroline,” she says, her voice serious and impassioned, “all the advice you give to help your clients build these fantastic careers, all the support you provide to help them develop the confidence and trust that’s so essential to managing your career throughout the transition to parenthood, that’s all well and good. But it’s at least as important that these women are aware of what’s happening to their fertility over time and what they can do to preserve it”.
Kate sits back, her face slightly flushed. There is conviction behind her words and recalling the experiences of women I’ve worked with over the years I know she’s right. But I also know how far removed all this stuff feels when you’re a young career woman knocking down barriers, challenging gender stereotypes and focused on blazing a trail. So this is what I tell her.
“For my clients, fertility is the last thing on their mind. There are messages everywhere that we can have kids much later, and now that Facebook and Apple have announced that they’ll pay for their female staff to freeze their eggs, women are getting the message that putting off parenting is not only possible, but even a positive strategic move. Is this the way we’re going? Is fertility preservation really a solution?” I’m getting pretty impassioned myself, as the idea of company-funded egg freezing gets my hackles up.
“Look, preserving your fertility isn’t a bad thing.” Kate responds. “In fact, as a Fertility Coach and Fertility Practitioner I am a passionate advocate of fertility preservation. However egg freezing isn’t necessarily a desirable or practical option for everyone. There are other options out there, if only women knew what they were. I want to spread the word that there are easy accessible steps that women can take to preserve their fertility naturally and so greatly improve their chances when it comes to conceiving in the future. These steps range from lifestyle choices like eating more healthily and stopping smoking, to specific action like getting a sexual health screen to check for infections that, if left untreated, could cause problems when trying to conceive later on.
As Kate is talking I’m reflecting back on my own experiences of building my career in my 20s. I’m astonished at how little I knew or thought about this stuff because all I could think about was my career. I think about how lucky I was falling pregnant by accident aged 30 (even if it didn’t quite feel like ‘luck’ at the time!) because it forced me to take my head out of the sand. Friends of mine weren’t so lucky. They ignored the whole fertility issue in the early years and so it came as a cruel surprise when, in their mid 30s, they decided they wanted kids but really struggled to conceive. Could the risk of this have been lower if they had thought about naturally preserving their fertility early on in their career? That’s the case that Kate was making, and it was certainly a convincing one.
There is one good thing to come out of Apple and Facebook’s egg freezing announcement and for this I’m grateful. It has brought the ‘career meets woman’ conflict to the forefront of a debate that has been too focused on getting women on boards without addressing the invisible handicap that only women have to bare in the race to the top: their fertility. It’s the issue that drives much of what I do at Babyproof Your Life, and working alongside Kate has only strengthened my belief that there’s plenty you can do now to give yourself the best chance of having it all later on. In the battle to resolve the conflict between career and family, fertility preservation clearly has an important role to play.
Caroline Flanagan is a mother of four and founder of www.babyproofyourlife.com , providing coaching and resources for the career woman who wants it all.
Kate Davies who is a fertility practitioner and coach, has two children and is the founder of www.yourfertilityjourney.com