Ladies, You’ve Been Conned. Your Biological Clock Isn’t Ticking

Science or sexism? How many men do you know of who are worried about being of an “advanced paternal age”?

4 min read
Ladies, You’ve Been Conned. Your Biological Clock Isn’t Ticking

My landlady asked me about my uterus the other day. To be more specific, she said: “When do you plan to have children?” She told me I had “only three to four years before it became unsafe.” My response, that I planned to have children in ten or so years from now, drew a loud gasp.

She began to admonish me about being “selfish” by “making my parents wait”. There was more talk of the “ticking time bomb” that was my biological clock. I politely excused myself from the conversation.

Over the next few hours, I spent some time researching about the body clock. How much time did I have? I simply had to know.

As it turns out, ladies: It doesn’t exist. Not one bit. It’s all made up.


A Journalist Made The Word Up 39 Years Ago

The term “biological clock”, scientifically speaking, refers to recurrent biological changes such as changes in body temperature. Women have it. Men have it. Even amoebae have it.

But, something was happening in the West in the 1970s. The dust of World War II had just begun to settle. Birth control became widely available and more women joined the workplace. Widespread panic and insecurity of the white man at this surge of empowerment of women was harnessed into a hot keyword by journalist Richard Cohen for the Washington Post in 1978.

You know what’s older than women’s “biological clocks”? McDonalds. Tell yourself that the next time you force yourself into planning children because otherwise it might be “too late.”

The Data Doesn’t Add Up; Some of it Doesn’t Exist

There are mainly three assumptions made at every discussion on women’s bodies:

  1. One in three women between ages 35 to 39 will not get pregnant within the first year of trying. (Human Reproduction, 2004)
  2. Women in their late 30s have a 30 percent chance of being childless. (American Society for Reproductive Medicine journal, 2003)
  3. A woman’s chance of pregnancy is 20 percent at age 30.

Looks grim, doesn’t it? It’s almost as if the information is designed to scare and pressurise women into choosing motherhood over their own careers and interests. Hmm. So let’s examine these statistics, that are often mistaken for facts.

The first listed statistic was first published in 2004 in a journal called Human Reproduction. Here’s what not many seemed to notice though: French birth records from 1670 to 1830 were used as the data set for the study.

The second statistic was printed in a 2003 journal of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, while the third appears on the ASRM website. However, as it turns out, none of the several references to “women’s declining fertility with age” on the ASRM website have cited sources.

When previously contacted for a comment, the ASRM said the data was simplified for a popular audience and did not have a proper citation. So where are these numbers coming from?

We are all force-fed information and studies that are often based on ancient data. Some of the data is sourced from a time when the world was still discovering concepts like standardised health care, fertility treatments, reproductive options, antibiotics or even lightbulbs.

In other words, all the frenzy and pressure about getting married, bearing children and designing our lives around this 30-year mark is all based on an expired data set.

In a recent study, David Dunson of Duke University studied the reproductive successes of 770 European women. The study found that there was only a four percentage point difference between the fertility of a woman at 27 and 38.


Surprise! Men Age Too

The trouble is that reproduction is more often than not, ascribed as the primary and sole responsibility of the female.

Research on the male biological clock suggests that a man’s biological clock is defined by the quality of the following factors: semen, sperm, testosterone and emotions.

Research by Harry Fisch in 2005 showed that as men age, the number of genetic mutations in their sperm increases – raising the chances of autism, schizophrenia and certain types of cancer in children.

The only difference is that for men, it happens more gradually and in their 40s. Yet, doctors point out, that almost never have they been approached by a male patient concerned about “advanced paternal age”.

Most men go their entire lives without knowing what a “male gynaecologist” is called, while women queue up for pap smears and fertility checkups.

Sniffing Out the Subtext

Much of this misreported, miscalculated “baby fever” springs from the assumption that all that women are biologically designed to want to bear children.

Is it true, though? Do all women instinctively want to bear children? I did some digging around and it turns out, there isn’t any evidence to back this up either!

In fact, a decade-long study by the Kansas State University in 2011 showed that while the baby fever was real (for men and women, both) it wasn’t because of an inexplicable hormonal reason. It was all sensory. This means that the feeling of holding, playing, seeing, smelling a baby, and the free choice of wanting to experience parenthood led the brain to delivering a signal that this might be a good time to reproduce.

Baby fever is a sensory need, not biological.

The bottom line is this. If you want to have a child in your 20s, do that. If you want to wait till you’re 35, do that.

As long as it is free will and logic which influences your decisions, and not some arbitrary social pressure built on bogus facts; As long as you aren’t being forced to swallow the pressure that is often on the lines of “it’s a natural process” – then you’ve already taken a step ahead in the right direction.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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