Mary Madigan on society’s expectations around fertility

Radio Host Kyle Sandilands recently announced that he’s going to be a first-time father at 50. This is great news, but why are older dads celebrated while older mums face harsh criticism?

While Sandilands receives kudos and congratulations, older women do not receive such warm reactions to pregnancy announcements. In fact, women are often bombarded with unsolicited warnings about their waning fertility as young as their mid-20s

Mary Madigan, a writer for News.au, explains that she is already suffering from society’s expectations around her fertility, and she’s only in her 20s.

She writes, “as a feminist, I believe women can have it all: a career, children and even a designer handbag. But I’m also aware that my biological clock will tick at some point, and if I want to be a Mum, I’ll have to listen to it. It won’t matter if that timing means my career will suffer.”

“Meanwhile, it feels like men are exempt from these timing issues and can prioritise their careers for decades. They can have children when it suits them and without society judging them.”

That’s why it stings so much when a male celeb like Kyle Sandilands can announce his impending fatherhood in such a carefree way

Unfortunately, women are not always afforded such luxury – we have to scramble to maintain our fertility. And then when we do get pregnant at an older age, we’re forced to answer invasive questions.

As Madigan puts it, “when a woman becomes pregnant in her 40s, she spends her pregnancy fielding questions about why she put it off for so long. In comparison, Sandilands has basked in his impending fatherhood, including hosting a lavish gender reveal party on a yacht. He has been lumped with congratulations and been exempt from the scrutiny of having a child later in life.”

That’s ultimately because society seems to believe that men can father children forever, even though male fertility does decline with age

Over time, men will experience a decline in their sperm quality, particularly with their sperm shape (morphology) and motility (sperm swimming ability).

So, while older mums like Halle Berry are the subject of headlines about fertility, someone like Sandilands is just a proud dad. “No one calls Sandilands’ child a ‘miracle’ baby or asks him if he regrets prioritising his career.” However, the science shows that he is rather lucky to have experienced a smooth path to fatherhood, as we know that male fertility does decline with age.  Madigan finishes her article by stating that she plans to freeze her eggs while she’s still in her 20s.

All this talk about male vs female fertility will certainly stress any young woman out!

What do you think about the media coverage of older dads vs older mums? Do you think it’s unfairly gendered or just a fact of nature? We’d love to hear your thoughts about how parenthood gets reported on in the media and how it affects your own fertility – share your thoughts below.

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