I was stuck in horrendous traffic on my way home from work last week. I had listened to all my CDs and was torn between listening to yet another radio news bulletin or some teenage music station when I found myself listening to a BBC radio 4 programme on childbirth, mums and fertility. It was very informative and I enjoyed listening to it but forgot about it as soon as I managed to crawl to my door that night.
The following day, I went to do some quick grocery shopping at Sainsburys and was waiting to use the self-service when a little child flung herself on the floor beside me, wailing for sweets. Her mother was close behind, looking embarrassed and angry at the same time. However, she just picked up the girl, cuddled and said something to her and the tears stopped! It got me thinking about what the woman might have gone through while trying to conceive that naughty yet much loved child.
Most women look forward to having children. In our cultural groups in Nigeria it is pretty much mandatory. According to recent medical research (and that BBC radio programme), the ideal age for women to have children is between the ages of 25 and 29.5. Congratulations to medical research, I can almost hear some of you say. It is true that having a baby while in that age bracket is best, as the chances of foetal and gynaecological complications are at their lowest at this time.
However, the reality is that for a variety of reasons (economic, social or medical) many women do not or cannot have babies while they are between 25 and 29.5 years old. For example, people of the older generation, i.e.60 and above tend to forget that times have changed and girls can’t just go off and get married at the age of 23 straight after teacher training or nursing school or university. In the olden days, schools and universities operated on schedule, people spent the allocated amount of time at their studies and went straight into jobs that nowno longer exist in any substantial number in Nigeria.
These days, boys and girls graduate at 25 after spending 6 years on a 4 year course (courtesy of strikes and riots). Boys also spend another 7-8 years trying to get a job, earn some money to rent accommodation and if lucky, buy a car. Girls tend to remain at home with their parents while job hunting. By the time the boy (now man) is ready to marry, he is 34 years old and his sweetheart, who has been waiting patiently, is 31 years old.
Does it mean you can’t conceive if you are older than the ideal age bracket?
While the ideal age is perfect for conception, it seems the pressures of modern life are changing the way people do things. More men and women are trying to attain financial stability before they start having children. Many women haven’t been able to settle down and have kids before the age of 29.5 years old. Infact, last year in the UK, there were more first time mums over the age of 35 than there were below 35! Could someone please tell all the ‘concerned relatives’ in Nigeria causing stress to ladies by harping on about babies that babies will still come?
My point is this: if you are lucky to meet your life partner while you are under 29.5 years old and you can afford to bring up a child (i.e food, shelter, clothing, medical and love) it makes sense to start trying for a baby once you are married. Don’t delay. It increases your chances of conceiving and everybody knows this.
However, if you are yet to find Mr right, what can you do but wait? You may even be married but still have to wait for a while before you get pregnant. People who ask insensitivequestions like ‘what are you waiting for’? or ‘when are you going to have kids?’ Should please take this piece as a not so-subtle request for them to PLEASE SHUT UP and let God! The comment I find most annoying is ‘You aren’t getting any younger o!’ Thanks to these human almanacs, ladies waiting to conceive have ‘now’ discovered that they are getting older and not younger, like the curious case of Benjamin Button! Haba! Enough stress and negativity!
There is no denying that a woman’s fertility diminishes with age. However, thanks to medical advancements, there are also many fertility treatments to help in situations where conceiving proves tricky. One top fertility expert from Harley Street in London on the BBC programme confirmed that a woman did become infertile when older and after a certain age fertility treatments were usually not advised. I was sad to hear this, until she said she would certainly refuse fertility treatment to any woman over the age of 51! That meant until 51, there was still hope! Only yesterday someone sent me a news clip from Sahara news of a Ghanaian lady who had her first baby at 57!!!
What can a couple do to boost fertility?
There are many websites that give decent advice on common sense things that couples can do when trying to get pregnant and none mentioned having people upset the couple with senseless comments. However, they did mention the following:
A woman needs to keep her body in good shape. Lose weight if overweight, or gain weight if underweight. A nutritious diet is also imperative, as a woman’s body needs a lot of nutrients to be able to cope with pregnancy. Drinking lots of water helps make good cervical fluid. Good exercise is also said to boost fertility, as well as cutting down on caffeine in tea, coffee and painkillers. Avoiding stress and stressful situations is also said to boost fertility: stay close to people who feel like sunlight and avoid people who never uplift you.
A man needs to cut down on alcohol and smoking, exposure to pesticides and harmful chemicals and also exchange his briefs for boxer shorts. More importantly, men should also consider having fertility tests to make sure that there are no issues that could preventtheir partner from conceiving.
Finally, let’s remember that God has perfect timing; never early or never late. It takes a little patience and a lot of faith, but always worth the wait.
Writer – Abi Adeboyejo lives in Birmingham, UK with her two children and her fabulous man, who by the way, prefers that his wife writes down her thoughts than listen to her musings on almost everything.