An image of a gray haired woman with wrinkles gently cradling her bulging pregnant belly has created quite a stir in England. The recently launched “Get Britain Fertile” campaign, funded by the pregnancy testing company First Response, is indeed in your face. It succeeds in its mission to shock viewers. In an age when 50% of women who undergo IVF are “shocked” that they require assisted reproductive technologies to get pregnant, I am an ardent fan of this type of controversial campaign.
The “pregnant” model in the limelight is TV host Kate Garraway who joined the campaign to “alert women to start thinking about their fertility at a younger age than my generation did.” Today, in Britain, the average age women give birth to their first child is 30 – 5 years later than their American counterparts. However, 20 percent of American women are waiting to have their first child until after they are 35 years of age – the age when their ovarian reserves start to noise dive.
Opponents of the ad believe that the campaign is in bad taste. As Aviva Shen, a writer for ThinkProgress comments: “First Response’s and other fertility campaigns will probably have little impact on the birth rate. But they will perpetuate the insidious notion that women, and women alone, are to blame for any reproductive troubles they may have.”
I disagree. Discussions about ovarian reserves, FSH levels, fertility planning are just not happening. Our General Practitioners and Gynecologists are not broaching these subjects. Our parents don’t bring this up in the birds and the bees conversation. The media is bombarding us with images of celebrities who are having “their” children later and later in life. And we are lulled into the notion that if we lead active and healthy lifestyles, our eggs will cooperate and enable us to have children when we want.
We need to take ownership of our bodies. We need to talk to each other and be transparent about the methods we used to get pregnant. We need in your face ads like “Get Britain Fertile” to jolt us into action.