I wanted to call this blog ‘Statistics Schmistics’ but I was worried you might think I’d made another typo. For all the eagle-eyed readers among you who noticed I spelt Kirstie Allsopp’s name wrong last week, thank you for being polite and not mentioning it. I’m afraid I’ve never been a great speller – no child of mine is going to win ‘the bee’ although I will be sure to teach them how to use an apostrophe. This infertile knows how to write ‘It’s a girl!’ even if she might never get to say it.
Anyway, since the whole Kirstie debacle I’ve been thinking a lot about statistics and particularly her assertion that your fertility ‘falls off a cliff’ aged 35. Writing for the Guardian, the journalist Hadley Freeman rubbished her statement by saying that according to a recent study 78% of 35 to 40 year olds who start trying to conceive get pregnant within a year, compared to 84% of 20 to 34 years. Hadley says it’s ‘more of a speed bump than a cliff’ (nice line, Hadley, especially if it’s true).
This got me thinking that if age isn’t as significant as everyone keeps saying, why is it that infertility seems to be a major issue of our time. The HFEA (the UK’s independent regulator of fertility treatment) says that one in seven couples have difficulty conceiving and it’s the second most prevalent reason that women of childbearing age go to their GPs.
Now, I’m not a lover of statistics. Damned lies as far as I’m concerned. But it does seem to be true that everyone knows someone who’s been affected by it. Is this because infertility is becoming an epidemic or is it because people are talking about it more? And if it is growing who the hell is asking why? Age matters, yes, but I don’t believe it can be the only reason either. Maybe people are seeking help earlier and pursuing IVF not because they need it but because they can? Maybe it’s due to declining sexual health? Or is it something else entirely: GM crops; global warming; Starbucks coffee; reality TV?
So for this week’s question, I’m not looking for statistics. Statistics schmistics. Just give me your hunch.